MIAMI -- It was not only was a deflating loss for Team Venezuela -- being ousted from the World Baseball Classic by Team USA Saturday night -- but the Houston Astros also lost All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve for an undetermined period of time after he suffered a right-hand injury during an at-bat.
Altuve exited the game in the fifth inning after being drilled by a 96 MPH fastball by Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Daniel Bard.
Venezuela overcame a first-inning, three-run deficit and then managed a four-run rally after Altuve's injury, but all their efforts proved futile when an eighth-inning grand slam from Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner secured the Americans' 9-7 victory to advance to the WBC semifinals. The Americans will face Cuba on Sunday.
Kansas City Royals catcher and Pool D MVP Salvador Perez said that he found out the extent of Altuve's injury after the game.
"We all had this angst about what happened in the fifth inning, but we knew we still had to remain focused on the game," Perez told ESPN upon exiting the clubhouse at loanDepot Park. "And then after the game, we found out that he suffered a fracture. And after losing the game, it just felt like it was a double loss."
The Astros released a statement on behalf of general manager Dana Brown, saying that Altuve was being evaluated for an injury to his right hand and they 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 Lopez, who is entering his third season as Houston's first base coach and his 25th in the Astros organization, stated that he would wait on the official diagnosis from the club, but that he was "really worried" about Altuve.
"One of the things I prayed about was for all the guys who took part in this tournament to come out of it healthy," López said. "When he went down ... it didn't look good. It took three seconds for (the trainer) to get him out of the game and I was like, 'Oh my god.' That was our momentum right there. We took the lead. And at some point, the whole dugout just kind of died, like quiet. And we tried to push everybody to get up and move on because he's gonna be fine, obviously. It was a difficult situation for me."
New Miami Marlins infielder, and reigning AL batting champion, Luis Arraez, said that while Altuve's injury was deflating, they knew they needed to focus on coming back against Team USA, who played their best baseball of 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 was just trying to focus on the game, but it affected me, because I am very fond of 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 suffered by an All-Star player in WBC pool play 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, and 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 trainer, hopes that it does not discourage Major League Baseball from continuing to host the WBC.
"These are things that happen, and injuries can also happen during spring training. I got injured in spring training. I had surgery because of a spring training injury. Injuries are part of the game," Perez explained. "I'm fine and on Monday I will rejoin KC. But the WBC is an amazing tournament and an amazing experience, and I hope it never ends. To represent your country is something unique and it is way beyond, and I can attest to that, than playing Game 7 of a World Series."