Venezuela deflated after Altuve injury, WBC departure

Mary RiveraESPN writerRead for 4 minutes

Jose Altuve leaves the game on a hit by pitch

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

MIAMI — Not only was it a deflation loss for Team Venezuela — which was ejected from 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 sustained a right hand injury during an at bat.

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

Venezuela overcame a three-run deficit in the first inning and then managed to rally for four runs after Altuve’s injury, but all their efforts proved futile when an eighth inning grand slam by Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner took the lead. American victory 9-7. to advance to the WBC semifinals. The Americans will face Cuba on Sunday.

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

“We were all scared about what happened in the fifth inning, but we knew we still had to keep our focus on the game,” Perez told ESPN as he left the clubhouse at loanDepot Park. “And after the game we found out he had a fracture. And after losing the game it just felt like it was a double defeat.”

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 on Sunday. It was reported during the Fox broadcast that the initial concern was a broken right thumb for Altuve.

Team Venezuela manager Omar López, who is entering his third season as Houston’s first base coach and his 25th in the Astros organization, stated that he would await the club’s official diagnosis but was “very concerned” about Altuve.

“One of the things I prayed for was that all the guys who competed in this tournament would come out healthy,” López said. “When he went down…it didn’t look good. It took three seconds to [the trainer] to get him out of the game and I was like ‘Oh my God.’ That was our momentum there. We took the lead. And at one point the whole dugout just sort of died, like it was quiet. And we tried to push everyone to get up and move on, because of course he’s going to be okay. It was a difficult situation for me.”

Luis Arraez, the new Miami Marlins infielder and reigning AL batting champion, said that even though Altuve’s injury was wasting away, they knew they had to focus on their return against Team USA, which played its best baseball of the tournament. Arraez hit two home runs in Saturday’s loss to become the first Venezuelan-born player to hit multiple home runs in a WBC game.

“I was just trying to focus on the game but it hit me because I love Altuve and I hope he gets better soon,” Arraez told ESPN. “But we never stopped fighting and never let our heads down.”

It was the second significant injury an All-Star player suffered in WBC pool play in Miami, after New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz suffered a torn patellar tendon while celebrating Puerto Rico’s victory 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 on Saturday night and even checked by Venezuela’s coach, hopes it won’t stop Major League Baseball from continuing to host the WBC.

“These are things that happen, and injuries can also happen in spring training. I got injured in spring training. I had surgery for a spring training injury. Injuries are part of the game,” said Perez. “It’s going well and I’ll be back with KC on Monday. But the WBC is a great tournament and a great experience, and I hope it never ends. Representing your country is a unique thing and it’s going way too far, and I can confirm that that, then playing Game 7 of a World Series.”

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