Miami In his native Isabela, Jose De Leon dreamed of pitching a perfect game to get his career back on track, regardless of the competition.

It happened this Monday in Miami, during the game against Israel on the third day of the World Baseball Classic at LoanDepot Park.

“I’ve been dreaming of this moment,” De Leon, 30, said. “With everything I’ve been through, I needed a moment like this to let the people of Puerto Rico know that I’m here to stay and show the world that Jose de Leon is still here.”

Puerto Rico pitched a perfect eight innings with Jexel Rios, star Edwin Diaz and Dwayne Underwood Jr. combining for the final 2.1 innings in a game shortened to eight innings as Puerto Rico knocked off Israel in that stretch. The perfect game is the first in World Baseball Classic history, though it won’t be official for a long time because it didn’t go nine innings.

De Leon pitched the first 5.2 perfect innings of the game. He struck out 10 batters, tying the record for most strikeouts by a pitcher in World Classic history. A tie with Dominican Ubaldo Jimenez. The 10 strikeouts is a new record for Puerto Rico in the tournament, surpassing Seth Lugo’s seven in 2017.

Diaz came in to replace the seventh because he needed to pitch in the World Classic as he had not seen action. Manager Yadier Molina said he also brought on Diaz because there was a chance to end the game with a knockout and he wanted to keep Israel clean.

“It’s a dream come true, and more for Puerto Rico, in the Classic. This is special!” said Diaz.

Rubio’s team celebrates their knockout victory over Israel. (Carlos Rivera Giusti)

Martin “Machete” Maldonado, who was hitless by the Houston Astros in the 2022 World Series and previously had two total no-hitters, went all eight innings.

Maldonado managed not only De Leon, but three other pitchers, and said that combination is always challenging and expected at team meetings.

“It’s all about game preparation and confidence in the pitchers and pitching,” Maldonado said.

The four pitchers combined for 88 pitches and 12 strikeouts against the 24 batters they faced.

It’s also Puerto Rico’s second shutout since an 11-0 loss to Venezuela in seven innings in the 2017 first round.

A perfect game means that the pitcher or pitching staff dominates the opposing team by not allowing any hits, strikeouts, or reaching base on a pitching error or hit. Basically, it’s getting the minimum three batters he has to face in an inning. The official definition of a perfect game is that it is achieved in a total of nine innings, i.e. by beating 27 opponents in a row.

In Major League Baseball’s 147-year history and more than 235,500 games, there have only been 23 perfect games. No one in history has had two perfect games. Oh, and there was one that the umpire hit in 2010, judging as a safe clean out at first base that would have given Armando Galarragi a perfect score.