Hollywood couldn’t script a more picture-perfect performance for Puerto Rico on Monday night in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
Falling in frustrating fashion despite a late-game bid against Venezuela on Sunday night, Puerto Rico was positioned to bounce back the very next night, and that’s exactly what they did.
Puerto Rico right-handed pitcher José De León, along with three other relievers called upon by skipper Yadier Molina, combined to throw eight perfect innings in a 10-0 victory over Israel, ending in a mercy rule. De León also notched an all-time WBC record by striking out 10 hitters. As for the perfect game itself, it was the first ever in WBC history.
Boston Red Sox shortstop Kiké Hernández played hero in the eighth inning, delivering the game-ending single to give Puerto Rico its second victory in WBC pool play. Hernández contributed two RBIs in the win, making him one of three Puerto Rico hitters to drive in multiple runs.
Their dominant offensive display also featured four extra-base hits and six two-out RBIs, courtesy of the two-hit nights from Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor.
Puerto Rico’s statement win ensured that the oddsmakers, who placed them out of the top five to win the WBC title, might’ve undersold them. Molina’s squad, which the now-retired MLB legend formerly led at catcher, entered WBC pool play as the underdogs despite having appeared in the last two championship games.
With an off day on Tuesday, Puerto Rico will get a breather before returning to pool action and facing off against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.