MIAMI (AP)José De León and three relievers combined on a perfect pitching performance as Puerto Rico routed Israel 10-0 in a World Baseball Classic matchup called after eight innings Monday night because of the tournament’s 10-run mercy rule.
Yacksel Ríos, Edwin Díaz and Duane Underwood Jr. closed out the win for Puerto Rico, which did not permit a baserunner. But it will not count as a perfect game in official WBC records because the game didn’t go a full nine innings.
That’s the standard established by the Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician for Major League Baseball.
Still, it was a dominant bounce-back victory for Puerto Rico, a day after its late rally fell short in a disappointing 9-6 loss to Venezuela.
“Very happy for the guys, especially after what happened Sunday,” Puerto Rico manager Yadier Molina said in Spanish. “To come out aggressively and win the game the way we did makes me very proud.”
De León tied a WBC record with 10 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings, earning the win. The right-hander was lifted after he fanned Spencer Horwitz on his 64th pitch, one under the tournament limit for starting pitchers in the first round. He exited to a huge ovation from the prohibitive Puerto Rico crowd of 27,813.
Afterward, he got the game ball and had it signed by his teammates.
“I dreamt about a moment like this,” De León said. “After all the setbacks I faced, I deserved this type of moment. I wanted to let the public know I am here to stay and also show the world that José De León still can compete.”
De León represented Puerto Rico in the 2017 WBC but has struggled with injuries since. In 2018, he had Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow after he got hurt in spring training with Tampa Bay.
“It is a great moment for all of us but especially for him,” Molina said, “with his family being here and what he has gone through in his career. I’m very happy with his outing. I know José very well and have worked with him. He deserves all of this.”
Ríos relieved De León and struck out his only batter to end the sixth.
With his team up 9-0 in the seventh, Molina turned to Díaz, the New York Mets’ star closer, and he fanned one hitter in a 1-2-3 inning. Underwood retired Israel in order on 10 pitches in the eighth.
Javier Báez doubled twice and Francisco Lindor tripled and singled for Puerto Rico, which finished with 11 hits and improved to 2-1.
Puerto Rico struck quickly against Israel starter Colton Gordon with a three-run first. Báez hit a two-run double and scored on Eddie Rosario’s double.
The extra-base hits continued for Puerto Rico in the second, resulting in another three runs. Kiké Hernández made it 5-0 with a two-run double and raced home on Emmanuel Rivera’s triple.
Lindor’s two-run triple keyed a three-run fifth.
In the eighth, Hernández’s single to left field drove in Martin Maldonado and ended the game.
“My first perfect game. That’s the best thing for Puerto Rico, right?” said Maldonado, a veteran catcher. “This is what we can do. We know about the importance of these games. … I have one World Series, and to me this is one of the best tournaments that I have played in my career.”
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