UPDATE2: Balentien hits 2 homers, break Japan's 49-year-old record

 
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TOKYO, Sept. 15 (22:34) Kyodo

 
(EDS: ADDS QUOTES, DETAILS, 2ND GRAF TO CHUNICHI-DENA GAME)

Yakult Swallows outfielder Wladimir Balentien hit his 56th and
57th home runs to break the Japanese single-season record on Sunday
in a 9-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers.

With his mother among the crowd of 30,319, Balentien lined a 2-1
fastball off lefty Daiki Enokida (4-9) in the first inning to bring
the capacity crowd at Tokyo's Jingu Stadium to its feet and establish
a new record. The previous mark stood for 49 years; the second didn't
last 49 minutes, as Balentien belted a solo shot in the third, also
off Enokida.

Balentien went 2-for-4 with a strikeout and his Japan-high 91st
walk.

"For me to get this is unbelievable," he said. "It's history
that no one could do for 49 years."

"I was trying too hard to hit a home run the last couple of
days, I just wanted to relax. (In the at-bat) my body was sweating. I
was so hot, but (when I hit it) I was so cold. It is one of the
better feelings I've had in my life."

Rookie Swallows right-hander Yasuhiro "Ryan" Ogawa (14-4) went
the distance to equal Carp ace Kenta Maeda for the league lead in
wins.

Despite their team taking a beating, the Tigers fanatic
followers could not resist giving Balentien his due and joined in the
chorus of cheers from the stands as he circled the bases.

"It was a special moment," he said. "Even though they were
losing, they showed how happy they are. I think the fans think it is
the right time to see something new."

Balentien, a 29-year-old native of Curacao, is in his third
season in Japan. He won the Central League home run title in each of
his first two seasons and played for the Netherlands in this year's
World Baseball Classic.

The previous record, first set by Sadaharu Oh in 1964 and
equaled by Tuffy Rhodes in 2001 and Alex Cabrera in 2002, had been
achieved in a 140-game season. Japan currently plays a 144-game
regular season.

Balentien tied the record in his 109th game of the season and in
Yakult's 122nd. He broke the record in his 113th game.

"To hit a home run every two games is a scary pace, and the
record he's set is just an overwhelming total," Oh, currently the
chairman of the Pacific League's Softbank Hawks, said in a statement.
"Along with the fans, I am really looking forward to see how far he
can take it."

Over three seasons in the major leagues with the Seattle
Mariners and Cincinnati Reds before turning 26, Balentien batted .221
with 15 home runs in 511 at-bats.

He batted .228 in 2010 in his Japan debut season with 131
strikeouts, but improved to a .272 average last year with 92
strikeouts in 106 games.

Balentien leads the CL in batting average, runs, walks and
on-base percentage, while striking out 91 times.

Asked about the home run total he wants to see at the end of the
year, Balentien said, "I just want to keep helping my team win. It's
not a one-player game. At the end of the season, we'll see how many I
have."

"Records are there to be broken. If someone comes and breaks it
next year, I will be happy for them."

-----

Carp 10, Giants 0

At Mazda Stadium, Kenta Maeda (14-5) allowed four base runners
over seven innings and drove in the game's first run as third-place
Hiroshima won for the fifth straight time, beating Central
League-leading Yomiuri.

The win kept the Carp 3-1/2 games ahead of the fourth-place
Chunichi Dragons in the fight for the CL's final playoff spot.

-----

Dragons 8, BayStars 7

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi reliever Toshiya Okada (7-5) pitched
out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fourth, and the Dragons
scored five times in the bottom of the inning in a come-from-behind
victory over DeNA.

Dragons closer Hitoki Iwase increased his career-record saves
total to 381, matching compatriot Kazuhiro Sasaki's combined total
between Japan and the big leagues. Sasaki saved 252 in Japan and 129
with the Seattle Mariners.

-----

Pacific League

Lions 3, Marines 2, 11 innings

At Seibu Dome, Chris Carter's pinch-hit RBI single tied the game
2-2 in the seventh and rookie Yuji Kaneko's RBI single won it in the
11th inning as Seibu came from behind to beat second-place Lotte. The
Marines fell seven games back of the rained-out Rakuten Eagles.

-----

Hawks 7, Fighters 6, 11 innings

At Yafuoku Dome, Softbank overcame a five-run deficit to tie it
against Nippon Ham closer Hisashi Takeda in the ninth on a Nobuhiro
Matsuda RBI single. Yuya Hasegawa doubled home the winning run in the
11th as the Hawks closed to within one game of second-place Lotte.
 


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