Ex-Mariner Balentien breaks Japan’s home run record

TOKYO — Former Seattle Mariner 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 three-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.

Balentien’s record comes in a season which has seen attempts to reform the game to make it more exciting. In June, Japanese baseball officials acknowledged that they introduced a new ball this season without notifying players. The new ball has resulted in a dramatic increase in home runs.

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