Balentien breaks Japan’s home run record
Wladimir Balentien
TOKYO, AP

Former major leaguer Wladimir Balentien hit his 56th and 57th home runs on Sunday, breaking the Japanese single-season record set by legendary slugger Sadaharu Oh 49 years ago.

 Balentien hit the record-breaking two-run homer in the first inning of Sunday’s game, sending the ball over the left-field wall at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium to give his Yakult Swallows an early lead over the Hanshin Tigers. He then added a solo shot in the third for No. 57 to help the Swallows to a 9-0 win.

 Balentien hit the record-breaking two-run homer in the first inning of Sunday’s game, sending the ball over the left-field wall at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium to give his Yakult Swallows an early lead over the Hanshin Tigers. He then added a solo shot in the third for No. 57 to help the Swallows to a 9-0 win.

 Oh set the mark of 55 in 1964. While it was equaled by ex-major leaguers Tuffy Rhodes in 2001 and Alex Cabrera in 2002, many felt Oh used his position as a manager to prevent both players from breaking it.

 “I want to thank the fans for all their support,” Balentien said. “It was a great feeling. I don’t think I will ever feel anything like that again in my life.”

 The 29-year-old Balentien missed the first 12 games of this season because of a leg injury sustained while playing for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

 Balentien’s challenge of Oh’s record comes in a season in which there is controversy over attempts to reform the game to make it more exciting. In June, Japanese baseball officials admitted they introduced a new official ball this season without notifying players. The new ball has resulted in a dramatic increase in home runs.

 Rhodes and Cabrera tied Oh’s record with several games left in the season but were then walked repeatedly by teams managed by Oh, who later denied instructing his pitchers to not challenge either player.

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