Earlier in the World Baseball Classic, before he became the greatest No. 9 hitter the tournament has seen, Trea Turner had a conversation with J.T. Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber. The Team USA and Philadelphia Phillies teammates were talking about spring training numbers. He told them he hadn’t hit a home run during the exhibition season in four or five years.
“It’s kind of funny how it works out,” Turner said, “but I don’t ask questions.”
What’s funny is that Turner has become a prolific slugger in a different March setting.
After homering once for Team USA in its four pool play games, Turner, the former Dodgers shortstop, smashed the go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning of the Americans’ 9-7 quarterfinal win over Venezuela on Saturday night. He followed that memorable moment — he called it the biggest hit of his career — with two additional home runs and four RBIs in Team USA’s 14-2 rout of Cuba in a semifinal Sunday night.
“What a fun team where Trea Turner bats ninth,” U.S. starter Adam Wainwright noted.
Turner has gone seven for 19 with a 1.429 on-base-plus-slugging percentage while setting several records in this tournament. The four home runs are the most for a U.S. player in a WBC. The 10 RBIs are tied for tops with Ken Griffey Jr. (2006) and David Wright (2013). He’s the first player in WBC history with four RBIs in consecutive games.
“I don’t know any of these things,” Turner said.
He also joined Griffey, Team USA’s hitting coach, as the only U.S. players with two home runs in a WBC game.
“Just can’t wait to tell him,” Turner said. “I didn’t know that, but I can’t wait to have that conversation with him in the cage tomorrow. It’s going to be fun for me.”
Turner, 29, has played in pressure-packed contests before. He has 43 postseason games and a World Series title with the Washington Nationals on his resume. But he hasn’t duplicated his regular-season prowess in October, batting .238 with three home runs and a .614 OPS in 197 career playoff plate appearances.
That does not change that Turner, a batting champion and two-time All-Star, is one of the best position players in the majors. He has a rare blend of speed and power at a premium position. It’s why the Dodgers acquired him along with Max Scherzer from the Nationals during the 2021 season. It’s why the Phillies gave him an 11-year, $300-million contract in December. And it’s why he has been the starting shortstop for the most loaded lineup ever assembled for an international baseball competition.
“I think he’s one of the best players in the game,” Team USA manager Mark DeRosa said. “That’s what I think, honestly. I mean, the Phillies gave him $300 million for a reason. The guy can flat play.”
Turner has excelled from the No. 9 spot over the last two games, surpassing his typical March production by a mile for the baseball world to see, after having never batted ninth as a professional. Without him, the Americans aren’t in Tuesday’s final against Japan or Mexico, whichever team wins Monday’s semifinal. With him, they are a win away from their second consecutive WBC title.
“I kept saying every time he went deep, ‘Who is the idiot that’s hitting him ninth?’ ” DeRosa said. “But that’s the way this lineup’s built. So I’m going to leave him alone right now.”
Source: LA Times