Baseball history was rewritten Sunday in Tokyo.
Yakult Swallows slugger and former major leaguer Wladimir Balentien clubbed his 56th and 57th home runs of 2013 in a 9-0 victory over the visiting Hanshin Tigers, breaking the Nippon Professional Baseball single-season home run record of 55 shared by Sadaharu Oh, Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera.
NPB introduced a new, more hitter-friendly ball at the beginning of this season and home run numbers are up across the league, but that should take nothing away from Balentien’s feat. After all, he’s the only one climbing toward 60. Major League Baseball fans are well-seasoned in the practice of adding context to these sort of things. Here’s No. 56, the record-snapping shot:
Balentien signed a three-year, $7.5 million free agent deal last winter with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows after flaming out in the Reds’ farm system. It does not carry an opt-out clause, so he can’t immediately parlay this success into a big contract back in the states. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t even want to.
For the first time in a month and a half, Aaron Judge went an entire game without striking out, ending his record streak at 37 games. Judge had an RBI single and three walks in Tuesday night’s 13-4 victory over the Tigers.
Judge went 1-for-4 with a solo home run and zero strikeouts in a 9-4 loss to the Brewers on July 7. Between July 8 and August 20, Judge would strike out in all 37 games, breaking the record previously held by Adam Dunn, who struck out in the first 32 games of the 2012 season. If one counted streaks extending into multiple seasons, Dunn held the record at 36 games as he struck out in his final four games in 2011 as well.
After Tuesday’s performance, Judge is now hitting .284/.417/.594 with 37 home runs, 81 RBI, and 93 runs scored in 525 plate appearances on the season. He’s had a particularly rough second half, as he entered Tuesday with a .684 OPS since the All-Star break, a far cry from his 1.139 OPS before the break.
Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was able to get a ground ball past Pirates first baseman Josh Bell for a double leading off the top of the sixth inning of Tuesday night’s game. He would come around to score later in the inning on a Corey Seager single, breaking a 1-1 tie.
The double gave Gonzalez 2,000 hits for his career. He is the 282nd player in baseball history and the 11th active player to reach 2,000 career hits. Gonzalez also has 300 home runs, making him one of 94 players with at least 300 dingers and 2,000 hits.
Gonzalez, who was recently activated from the disabled list, entered Tuesday’s action hitting .247/.295/.330 with one home run and 25 RBI in 201 plate appearances on the season.