David Wright hits grand slam for Team USA in World Baseball Classic
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PHOENIX -- With Mike Trout watching from a front-row seat near the Team USA dugout, David Wright stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the fifth inning Saturday night and delivered a laser shot into the leftfield bleachers.
As if to say, "Have another burrito, Mike. I got this."
There is no more vocal supporter of the World Baseball Classic than Wright. Trout -- the reigning AL Rookie of the Year and runner-up for MVP -- is near the top of the list of high-profile players who refused to play in this tournament.
For this night, at least, Wright seemed to be more than enough. His grand slam, the second in WBC history for Team USA, snapped a 2-2 tie and delivered a 6-2 win that sets up a must-win game against Canada Sunday afternoon at Chase Field.
Even with the tournament's bizarre rules, the task is a simple one for the Americans: To lock up a trip to Miami for the next round, beat Canada.
Wright, playing in his second WBC, hit the United States' first grand slam since Jason Varitek smacked one against Canada in 2006. He fell behind 1-and-2 in the count against Italy reliever Matt Torra, fouled off a 90-mph fastball and then crushed a changeup into the left-centerfield seats.
In the second inning, Wright was robbed of an extra-base hit when Mario Chiarini made a leaping grab at the rightfield warning track. The way he's swinging now, Wright already appears locked in for the April 1 opener, but he's also focused on taking care of business in the WBC. The slam was a leap toward that, not unlike his hop-step out of the box.
"It's emotional," Wright said after the win. "You hear the 'USA' chants, you look up in the stands and you see the flags, you look in the dugout and you see 'USA' across the front of guys' chests and across the hats, and you get caught up in the game and you get a little emotional."
Wright had two hits, including an RBI single, in the previous night's 5-2 loss to Mexico, but the Americans went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Afterward, in the nearly empty U.S. dugout, Wright sat on a bench, wearing shorts, shower shoes and a glum expression, and tried to explain the absences of the best pitchers his country has to offer.
"It's well-documented that some guys turned it down," he said Friday. "But I like the guys that want to be here. I think there's something to be said about guys that want to be here and want to put that jersey on."
Often, players with freshly signed big-money contracts pull themselves from WBC consideration, fearful that they could get injured and sour the start with their new club. Trout's teammate, Josh Hamilton, also said he was unavailable after signing his five-year, $125-million deal with the Angels last December.
Wright had no such worries. He signed his eight-year, $138- million extension in November to essentially become a Met for life. Judging by his performance in this year's WBC and his enthusiastic support for it, he's probably ready to enlist for the next few tourneys as well. "I really enjoy this tournament," he said. "I think it's only going to get bigger and better. All of us take a lot of pride in putting this uniform on and we want to represent the country well."
In the meantime, Trout can keep watching.