2023 World Baseball Classic: Puerto Rico throws a perfect eight-inning game against Israel thanks to the mercy rule

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World Baseball Classic history was made Monday night. Four pitchers from Puerto Rico threw 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. Helpers Yacksel Rios, Edwin Díaz and Duane Underwood Jr. finished the game.

The WBC mercy rule only applies to pool games. Games are called when a team has a 15-run lead after five innings or a 10-run lead after seven innings. Enrique Hernández scored in Puerto Rico’s tenth run in the eighth inning and it was a mercy walk-off. So this was a combined perfect game with eight innings, a walk-off, and a 10-0 result. Here’s the Hernández walk-off single:

The 30-year-old De León hit 10 of the 17 batters he faced, equaling Ubaldo Jiménez’s WBC strikeout record 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 a batter, with Díaz and Underwood retiring three each.

This is the first perfect game of any length in the WBC, but it’s not the first no-hitter. Dutch right-hander Shairon Martis, then just 18, threw a seven-inning mercy no-hitter against Panama in 2006. Martis pitched all seven innings and was right on the pitch limit when he got a double play late in the game. There has never been a nine-inning no-hitter in the WBC.

Once a top pick for the Los Angeles Dodgers, De León has struggled with numerous injuries over the years and 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 made major league appearances with the Cincinnati Reds in 2021. He has a career 8.44 ERA in 48 MLB innings.

Offensively, Puerto Rico’s offense assisted De León & Co. with a three-run first inning, three-run second inning, and three-run fifth inning before Hernádez’s walk-off in the eighth. Francisco Lindor turned the game into a laugh with a triple bases clear in the fifth.

Monday’s win gave Puerto Rico a 2-1 lead in pool. A win against powerhouse Dominican Republic on Wednesday would put Puerto Rico in an excellent position to advance to the second round. Israel is 1-1 and faces a steep climb to progress.

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