After a truly entertaining weekend in the World Baseball Classic, Japan defeated Mexico on Monday night in a WBC all-time classic, earning the right to face the United States in the championship game Tuesday evening.
Team USA was able to pull through in the clutch against Venezuela, allowing White Sox teammates to face off in the semifinals against Cuba, with the United States also setting itself up for a potential back-to-back WBC championship.
In Saturday’s quarterfinal game, the United States jumped ahead 3-0 early in the first inning after four straight singles — for a second it felt like I was watching the 2022 White Sox, but let’s be real, they definitely wouldn’t have scored three runs out of it.
Luis Arráez brought Venezuela back within one after a two-run bomb in the second inning, but the United States were able to add to its lead, bringing the score to 5-2 after a Kyle Tucker home run in the fifth. A Daniel Bard meltdown in the bottom of that inning resulted in: one injured José Altuve, two wild pitches, a walked-in run, and a blown three-run lead. Arráez struck again in the seventh, blasting another solo shot to right, bringing the score to 7-5 in favor of Venezuela.
Luis Arraez MOONSHOT ☄️— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) March 19, 2023
His second HR of the game!
: WBC on FOX pic.twitter.com/FbXIrgBV6z
Team USA began a rally in the eighth inning to load the bases, keeping the possibility of advancing to the semifinals alive. No. 9 hitter Trea Turner came up and proved exactly how dangerous the United States lineup is, crushing a grand slam to deep left for to push the U.S. back up, 9-7, eventually sealing the win. I’m not sure Hollywood could even write a scene so perfect. The energy in the stadium was so electric you could feel it from anywhere.
Remember when people were saying that nobody cares about the World Baseball Classic? Fools, if you ask me!
The next night, the United States continued its dominance in the semifinals matchup against Cuba, continuing their offensive reign and sealing the 14-2 victory. The game started with Mickey Mouse defense at the hands of starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright. But once the yips wore off, the United States was able to settle in and explode offensively. Turner had another monstrous evening, smashing a pair of home runs, with the first landing in nearly the same spot as his grand slam the night prior. Turner has three more home runs than anyone else on Team USA, and has also posted an unreal 1.429 OPS in his 19 at-bats. Hats off to Turner, it’s been unbelievably entertaining to watch him the last several games.
Checking in on the South Siders
In the quarterfinal game against the U.S., José Ruiz came out of the bullpen for Venezuela after just one out in the first inning, inheriting a three-run lead and a runner on third with one out. As he has been throughout the tournament, Ruiz came through in the clutch again, striking out teammate Tim Anderson, and getting out of the inning with a Kyle Schwarber fly out. Ruiz had the third most innings pitched for Venezuela, and was certainly one of the most efficient, only giving up one hit, walking two, and striking out five over 4 1⁄3.
Lance Lynn proved that he is truly America’s Ace, recovering really well after giving up an early home run to Arráez. In his final outing for Team USA, he gave up four hits, two earned runs, walked one, and struck out two. His final WBC ERA ended up at 3.00, and he only gave up six hits throughout the entire tournament, with hitters batting only .188 against him. We’ve seen great stuff from Lynn the last two weeks, and I’m excited to see how he translates this into the upcoming season!
Lance Lynn, Elevated 94mph Fastball...and Sword. ⚔️— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 19, 2023
And K Strut. pic.twitter.com/crC1p97thP
Tim Anderson remained at second base, and while he didn’t have as strong of a night vs. Venezuela as he did in previous games, he still was able to find a way on base when it counted. Tim started the rally in the eighth inning, drawing a walk that would eventually set up the bases-loaded situation for Trea Turner to hit the moon shot heard around the world.
In Sunday night’s win against Cuba, Tim played for half of the game before Jeff McNeil replaced him to get some playing time. Outside of a small defensive hiccup in the first inning, Anderson went 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly RBI in the third. His WBC batting average now sits at .313 ahead of Tuesday’s championship game.
Yoán Moncada continued to put Cuba on his back, doing what he could to keep the team in the game vs. the U.S., going 2-for-4 including a hard-hit double, and scoring one of Cuba’s two runs. He ended up leaving the game after colliding with Cuba’s left fielder; however, White Sox manager Pedro Grifol confirmed that he was not seriously injured. Moncada’s talent and power were on display for the world over the last two weeks, leading the Cuban team in BA, OBP, OPS and hits.
In his 23 at-bats, Yoán only struck out twice, and walked once more than that. The amazing thing about Moncada leading his country’s team to the semifinals is that there’s still so many misguided (put extremely nicely) White Sox fans who will say he is lazy, doesn’t care, and is a bad player. At this point, though, I’m just going to assume those people do not know ball.
My favorite Yoán highlight:
Luis Robert Jr. showed flashes of himself throughout the Classic, but he struggled to get hot and it seemed like he wasn’t seeing the ball as well as Moncada. Luis led the Cuban team in strikeouts, and his stat line wasn’t much more impressive, slashing .259/.286/.296 with a .582 OPS. Tough tournament all-around for Luis, but I’m not too concerned knowing the superstar-caliber talent he has.
Congratulations to all of the White Sox players who participated in the World Baseball Classic — everyone made it to at least the second round, and it’s been thrilling watching teammates play against each other and represent their home countries. We’ll be back tomorrow with full gamethread/recap coverage of the U.S.-Japan championship game: Let’s see if Team USA can pull off the back-to-back title!