World Baseball Classic history was made Monday night. Four Puerto Rico pitchers tossed a combined eight-inning perfect game against Israel (PR 10, ISR 0). The game ended after eight innings because of the mercy rule. Starter José De León retired all 17 batters he faced before reaching the WBC pitch limit. Relievers Yacksel Rios, Edwin Díaz, and Duane Underwood Jr. finished the game.
The WBC mercy rule is in effect for pool play only. Games are called when a team has a 15-run lead after five innings or a 10-run lead after seven innings. Enrique Hernández singled in Puerto Rico’s tenth run in the eighth inning and it was a mercy rule walk-off. So this was a combined eight-inning perfect game with a walk-off and a 10-0 score. Here is Hernández’s walk-off single:
De León, 30, struck out 10 of the 17 batters he faced, tying the WBC single-game strikeout record set by Ubaldo Jiménez in 2009. Pitchers are limited to 65 pitches in the first round of the WBC and De León managed to get 17 outs with those 64 pitches despite those 10 strikeouts. He was aggressive and extremely efficient. Rios retired one batter, Díaz and Underwood three each.
This is the first perfect game of any length in the WBC but it is not the first no-hitter. Netherlands right-hander Shairon Martis, then only 18, threw a seven-inning mercy rule no-hitter against Panama in 2006. Martis threw all seven innings and was right up against pitch limit when he got a game-ending double play. There has never been a nine-inning no-hitter in the WBC.
Once a top prospect with the Los Angeles Dodgers, De León has battled numerous injuries over the years and he spent last season with the Toronto Blue Jays. He allowed nine runs in 13 1/3 innings in their minor league system. De León last appeared in the big leagues with the Cincinnati Reds in 2021. He has a career 8.44 ERA in 48 MLB innings.
Offensively, Puerto Rico’s offense supported De León & Co. with a three-run first inning, a three-run second inning, and three-run fifth inning before Hernádez’s walk-off in the eighth. Francisco Lindor turned the game into a laugher with a bases-clearing triple in the fifth.
Monday’s win improved Puerto Rico to 2-1 in pool play. A win over the powerhouse Dominican Republic on Wednesday would put Puerto Rico in excellent position to advance to the second round. Israel is 1-1 and facing an uphill climb to advance.