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.
The Sox’ winning streak ends at 11, thanks in part to Gary Sanchez continuing to hit like Barry Bonds or someone. Well, not quite Bonds, but his 20 homers in 49 games is ridiculous. I’d say “at some point pitchers need to stop giving him stuff to hit,” but this dude drove in a run when someone tried to intentionally walk him a week or two ago, so maybe there is nothing that can be done. In any event, Boston’s loss, along with the Blue Jays win, means that the AL East is not quite settled. It likely is practically, but not technically!
In other news, the Tigers pounded the Indians and their post-clinch, hungover lineup and, with the Orioles’ loss, pull a game closer in the Wild Card. The Mets pounded the Marlins who, one suspects, can only run on emotion so long and desperately want and ned to be with their loved ones to process this past week. The Cards and Giants both won as well, keeping the NL Wild Card at the status quo for another day: the Mets and Giants in, if the season ended today, the Cards one back.
Yankees 6, Red Sox 4
Nationals 4, Diamondbacks 2
Cubs 6, Pirates 4
Blue Jays 5, Orioles 1
Tigers 12, Indians 0
Braves 7, Phillies 6
Mets 12, Marlins 1
Royals 4, Twins 3
Rangers 6, Brewers 4
White Sox 13, Rays 6
Astros 8, Mariners 4
Cardinals 12, Reds 5
Angels 8, Athletics 1
Padres 7, Dodgers 1
Giants 12, Rockies 3
Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz was childhood friends with Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, so it was expected when Diaz took time away from the team on Monday to visit Fernandez’s family in Miami. They grew up on the same street in Cuba and played for the same youth baseball team and both would ultimately wind up playing Major League Baseball in the United States.
In the bottom of the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Reds, Diaz hit a 2-1 Robert Stephenson fastball out to left-center field for a no-doubt grand slam. Teammate Yadier Molina gave Diaz a tight hug as he crossed home plate.
Before Tuesday’s game, Diaz said that the best way to honor Fernandez was to play with his passion, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. Diaz said, “I only play for [Fernandez’s] family right now.”
Here’s the video.