MIAMI — Trea Turner, Paul Goldschmidt, and a relentless US lineup that continues to put crooked numbers on the scoreboard, a dynamic display of the vast gap between the American and Cuban premier league teams struggling on the world stage as the top players have left the island nation.
Turner homered twice to give him the last four of the tournament, driving in four walks to lead the US to beat Sunday night 14-2 and advance the defending champion America to the finals of the World Baseball Classic.
Goldschmidt also scored and had four RBIs and Cedric Mullins played deep in a game which was interrupted three times by fans running on the pitch to show any signs of protest.
“The team kind of represents the government there, and people are not too happy about that,” said US manager Mark DeRosa.
The US faces either Japan or Mexico in the championship Tuesday night, trying to join the Samurai Warriors as the only nation to win the title twice.
“I think we needed a little bit of time, but now we're kind of finding our stride a little bit,” said Turner.
Turner has a tournament-leading 10 RBI. He followed up the previous night's eight-inning grand slam against Venezuela with a solo homer in the second from Roenis Elias (0-1) and a three-run drive in the sixth against Elian Leyva.
“I keep saying every time he goes deep, who is the fool who hit him ninth?” said DeRosa.
Cuba took the lead when his first four hitters hit Adam Wainwright (2-0) without taking the ball out of the half. After forcing a run by walking to Alfredo Despaigne, the 41-year-old left-hander recovered to be stranded on a loaded base.
“I put myself in that situation in the first place by making a terrible PFP game – or not making a PFP game,” Wainwright said referring to the fielding drills of a pitcher and two grounders he failed to make.
The American batsman had 14 hits, including eight for extra bases, and seven walks as they scored in seven of eight innings – five by multiple runs. Goldschmidt hit a good two-lap homer in the first with a high 112 mph rocket over the left field wall. He added a two-stroke single in fifth.
“That to me is one of my favorite home runs I've ever hit in my life,” said Goldschmidt.
St. John's third baseman Catching up close Edwin Díaz suffered a season-ending knee injury during the celebrations that followed Puerto Rico's win on Wednesday and Houston second baseman Jose Altuve broke his thumb when hit by a pitch while playing for Venezuela on Saturday.
Fans in the selling crowd of 35,779 at loanDepot Park sounded evenly split between the US and Cuba. Several hundred people gathered before the game outside the ballpark in Miami's Little Havana section to protest the presence of the Cuban team, whose island nation has been under communist rule since 1959.
Play was briefly halted in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings as fans ran onto the court. The first held a banner reading “Libertad Para Los Presos Cubanos del 11 de Julio (Freedom for Prisoners of Cuba July 11)” referring to the 2021 demonstration date.
“There were provocations, but we never paid attention to them,” said Cuban manager Armando Johnson.
Cuban fans roared early on as their team's first four hitters stringed three down infield and a loaded walk. Wainwright allowed one run and five hits in four innings. Cardinal Miles Mikolas' teammate followed with four innings and Aaron Loup finished.
Olympic gold medalist in 1992, 1996 and 2004, the Cuban national team has struggled in recent years as many top players have gone to MLB. Cuba failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Cuba for the first time this year used several players under contract with the MLB club, including White Sox Gold Glove midfielder Luis Robert and third baseman Yoán Moncada — who was booed. But many of Cuba's major leagues are absent.
“We want other players to join in,” Johnson said. “They should think about it and go back to Cuba.”
DeRosa on what he's up to after Saturday night's quarter-final win over Venezuela.
“I read how bad my manager was on social media back then,” he said.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BRACKET
In the other semifinal, Japan starts 21-year-old sensation Roki Sasaki against Mexico and Patrick Sandoval of the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
Moncada left after the third baseman collided in the sixth with left fielder Roel Santos, who had caught a Kyle Schwarber pass. Moncada took a rib but was OK, Johnson said.
Arizona RHP Merrill Kelly will likely start the finals.