MIAMI — The beautiful thing about great players is they can make up for a manager’s mistakes. They provide the gift of second chances and second life, wielding their talent to pull teams back from the brink after an ill-advised move or decision.
This being baseball, managerial decisions are dissected, analyzed and second-guessed ad infinitum. Sometimes, the blunders are obvious. Other times, the criticisms are unfair or ill-informed.
But at the end of the day, it’s players who win and lose games. It’s players who perform or don’t, execute or don’t, succeed or don’t. All it takes is one player, in one big moment, to make the managerial mistakes and miscalculations of a previous inning feel like a distant memory.
Trea Turner was that player on Saturday night. With one grand swing, he saved Team USA from a late-game collapse and kept their dreams of a repeat World Baseball Classic title alive.
Turner hit a momentous, go-ahead grand slam in the top of the eighth inning to lift Team USA to a wild, 9-7 win over Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic quarterfinals at loanDept Park. Team USA, after being six outs from elimination, advances to face Cuba in the semifinals on Sunday.
“I think this is probably the biggest hit that I’ve had,” Turner said. “And individually probably right up there with any hit I’ve ever had.”
Turner’s grand slam off Venezuela reliever Silvino Bracho saved Team USA after it blew a 5-2 lead on the heels of a puzzling decision by manager Mark DeRosa to keep a wild and ineffective Daniel Bard on the mound when he couldn’t find the strike zone.
Bard relieved Lance Lynn with a three-run lead to open the fifth inning and immediately struggled to throw strikes. He walked Gleyber Torres on five pitches to lead off the inning and almost hit him twice. He threw three pitches to Andres Gimenez, only one of which was in the strike zone, before giving up an infield single. He threw his second pitch to Jose Altuve, a slider, to the backstop for a wild pitch. Three pitches later, he hit Altuve in the hand to load the bases and forced Altuve to leave the game injured.
After walking the leadoff batter, throwing a wild pitch and hitting a batter, Bard clearly did not have his control. And yet, DeRosa left him in the game.
That decision predictably did not go well. Bard uncorked another wild pitch immediately after hitting Altuve to gift Venezuela a run and cut Team USA’s lead to 5-3. He finished the at-bat by walking Anthony…
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