Former Seattle Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien hit his 56th and 57th home runs Sunday, breaking the Japanese single-season record set 49 years ago by legendary slugger Sadaharu Oh.
Balentien hit the record-breaking three-run homer in the first inning, sending the ball over the left-field wall at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium. He then added a solo shot in the third to help the Yakult Swallows beat the Hanshin Tigers, 9-0.
Oh set the old record of 55 in 1964.
Balentien, who is from Curaao, played for the Mariners (2007-09) and with the Cincinnati Reds (2009) before signing with the Swallows in 2011. He hit 31 homers in each of his first two seasons in Japan.
Balentien’s record comes in a season during which there has been controversy over a new, livelier baseball.
In June, Japanese baseball officials admitted they introduced the new official ball this season without notifying players. A dramatic increase in home runs has coincided with the new ball.
SOX HONOR RIVAL RIVERA
A quartet of cellos played what certainly was the classiest version of “Enter Sandman” that ever graced a baseball diamond, and the Red Sox honored Yankees closer Mariano Rivera before he played in his final scheduled game at Fenway Park.
The ceremony opened with the Red Sox needling the likely Hall of Famer for one of his career lowlights: the blown save in Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series that allowed Boston to come back from a 3-0 deficit and advance to the World Series. The Red Sox went on to win their first Series title in 86 years.
Highlights of the appearance — one of just five postseason blown saves in his 19-year career — were played on the scoreboard, with commentary from former Red Sox players Dave Roberts, Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller. Then the scoreboard flashed, “But seriously …” and the accolades followed.
In keeping with the tradition of Rivera’s farewell tour, the Red Sox gave him a team-signed No. 42 that hung on the Green Monster’s manual scoreboard whenever he came in to pitch.
ROCKIES WILL SAY GOODBYE TO HELTON
Todd Helton will retire at the end of the season after spending 17 seasons with the Colorado Rockies and setting franchise records in almost every offensive category.
Helton made the decision earlier this season to retire.
“I didn’t want to say I was going to return and then come back in,” Helton said. “I talked to my wife and thought about my body and mentally how I felt going out there for every game. I’m 40. It’s time to go. It’s a young man’s game.”
Helton began Sunday as a career .317 hitter with 367 homers, 1,397 RBI, 1,394 runs, a .415 on-base percentage and a .539 slugging percentage. He was an All-Star from 2000-04 and is the Rockies’ leader in games, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, runs and walks. He also won three Gold Gloves at first base.
Yasiel Puig pinch hit in the ninth inning after being left out of the Dodgers’ lineup against the Giants because of left hip soreness. The rookie grounded out with the bases loaded, ending a 4-3 loss. … Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez left the game against the Blue Jays in the sixth inning after suffering a strained right groin. He was replaced by rookie Kevin Gausman.