Earlier in the World Baseball Classic, before he became the best No. 9 hitter the tournament has seen, Trea Turner had a conversation with JT Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber. Teammates from the USA and the Philadelphia Phillies were talking about spring training numbers. He told them that he hadn’t hit a home run during the exhibition season in four or five years.
“It’s kind of funny how it works,” Turner said, “but I don’t ask questions.”
The funny thing is that Turner has become a prolific slugger in a different March setting.
After homering once for Team USA in their four group games, Turner, the former Dodgers shortstop, smashed a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning of the Americans’ quarterfinal victory. 9-7 win over Venezuela on Saturday night. He followed that memorable moment, calling it the biggest hit of his career, with an additional two home runs and four RBIs in Team USA’s 14-2 semifinal victory over Cuba on Sunday night.
“What a fun team where Trea Turner hits ninth,” said US starter Adam Wainwright.
Turner has gone 7-for-19 with a 1.429 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and has set several tournament records. The four home runs are the most by an American player in a WBC. The 10 RBIs are tied for the top with Ken Griffey Jr. (2006) and david wright (2013). He is 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, the hitting coach for Team USA, as the only US players with two home runs in a WBC game.
“I 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 high-pressure competition 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, hitting .238 with three home runs and a .614 OPS in 197 career playoff plate appearances.
That doesn’t change the fact that Turner, a batting champion and two-time All-Star, is one of the best position players in the majors. He has a rare combination of speed and power in a prime position. That’s why the Dodgers acquired him along with Max Scherzer from the Nationals during the 2021 season. That’s why the Phillies gave him an 11-year, $300 million contract in December. And that’s why he has been the starting shortstop for the most loaded lineup ever assembled for international baseball competition.
“I think he’s one of the best players in the game,” said Team USA head coach Mark DeRosa. “That’s what I think, honestly. I mean, the Phillies gave him $300 million for a reason. The guy can play flat.”
Turner has risen from the No. 9 spot over the past two games, beating his typical March output by a mile for the baseball world to see, after never hitting ninth as a pro. Without him, the Americans are not in Tuesday’s final against Japan or Mexico, whichever team wins Monday’s semifinal. With him, they are one win away from their second straight WBC title.
“He kept saying every time he got deep, ‘Who’s the idiot that’s hitting him ninth?’ DeRosa said. “But that’s the way this lineup was built. So I’m going to leave him alone right now.”