Former major leaguer Wladimir Balentien tied Japanese baseball's season home run record held by the legendary Sadaharu Oh and two others on Wednesday when he connected for the 55th time this year.
The 29-year-old Tokyo Yakult Swallows outfielder homered in the sixth inning of a 6-2 loss to Hiroshima at Jingu Stadium. Former major leaguers Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera share the record with Oh and now Balentien, who has 21 regular-season games remaining this season to break the mark.
Rhodes and Cabrera also had several chances to set the record in the 2001 and 2002 seasons but were unable to hit another home run when pitchers started to walk them more frequently and offer few good pitches to hit.
Balentien played portions of three seasons in the major leagues with the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds. He went to Japan in 2011 and had back-to-back seasons of 31 home runs for Toyko.
The Curacao native has 117 RBIs in 109 games this year despite missing the first 12 games of the Japanese season after suffering a leg injury in the World Baseball Classic in March while playing for the Netherlands.
Home runs have dramatically increased in the Japan this year after the league began using a new, livelier baseball.