Balentien breaks Japan's home run record

JIM ARMSTRONG
Associated Press
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Yakult Swallows' Wladimir Balentien celebrates while rounding bases after hitting his 56th home run off Hanshin Tiger's Daiki Enokida in the first inning of their regular season baseball game at Jingu Stadium in Tokyo Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. Former major leaguer Balentien broke the Japanese single-season record set by legendary slugger Sadaharu Oh 49 years ago. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

TOKYO (AP) — Former major leaguer 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.