Venezuela deflated after Altuve injury, WBC exit

Marly RiveraESPN writer4 minute reading

Jose Altuve leaves the game after being hit by the pitch

Jose Altuve leaves the game under his own power after being hit by Daniel Bard’s pitch.

MIAMI — Not only was it a disappointing loss for Team Venezuela — getting kicked out of the World Baseball Classic by Team USA on Saturday night — but the Houston Astros also lost All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve indefinitely after he suffered a right hand injury during a blow.

Altuve left the game in the fifth inning after being fouled by a 96 mph fastball by Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Daniel Bard.

Venezuela overcame a first-inning, three-run deficit and then mounted a four-run rally after Altuve’s injury, but all their efforts proved futile as an eighth-inning grand slam by Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner secured the Americans’ 9- 7 win to advance to the WBC semi-finals. The Americans meet Cuba on Sunday.

Kansas City Royals catcher and Pool D MVP Salvador Perez said he learned the extent of Altuve’s injury after the game.

“We all had this anxiety about what happened in the fifth inning, but we knew we still had to stay focused on the game,” Perez told ESPN as he left the clubhouse at loanDepot Park. “And then after the game we found out he had a fracture. And after losing the game, it just felt like a double loss.”

The Astros released a statement on behalf of general manager Dana Brown saying Altuve was being evaluated for an injury to his right hand and would provide an update Sunday. It was reported during the Fox broadcast that the initial concern was a broken right thumb for Altuve.

Team Venezuela manager Omar López, entering his third season as Houston’s first base coach and his 25th in the Astros organization, said he would wait for the official diagnosis from the club but was “really worried” about Altuve.

“One of the things I asked for was that all the guys that entered this tournament come out of it healthy,” López said. “When he went down … it didn’t look good. It took (the coach) three seconds to get him out of the game and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ That was our momentum right there. We took the lead. And at one point the whole dig just kind of died quietly. And we tried to push everybody to get up and move on because he’s going to be fine, of course. It was a tough situation for me.”

New Miami Marlins infielder and reigning AL batting champion Luis Arraez said while Altuve’s injury was draining, they knew they had to focus on coming back against Team USA, which played its best baseball in the tournament. Arraez hit two home runs in Saturday’s loss, becoming the first Venezuelan-born player to hit multiple home runs in a WBC game.

“I just tried to focus on the game, but it affected me because I’m very happy for Altuve and I hope he gets better soon,” Arraez told ESPN. “But we never stopped fighting and never gave up our heads.”

It was the second significant injury suffered by an All-Star in the WBC pool in Miami after New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz suffered a torn patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico’s win over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday. He is expected to miss the entire 2023 season.

Perez, who was hit by several balls behind the plate Saturday night and was even checked by Venezuela’s coach, hopes that doesn’t deter Major League Baseball from continuing to host the WBC.

“These are things that happen and injuries can happen in spring training as well. I got hurt in spring training. I had surgery for a spring training injury. Injuries are part of the game,” Perez said. “I’m fine and on Monday I’ll rejoin KC. But the WBC is a great tournament and a great experience and I hope it never ends. To represent your country is something unique and it’s far, and I can confirm that than playing Game 7 of a World Series.”

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