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Wladimir Balentien hits 54th home run, one shy of Japan record

The Netherlands' Wladimir Balentien follows a fly ball

The Netherlands' Wladimir Balentien follows a fly ball against Taiwan in the fifth inning of a World Baseball Classic second round game. (March 3, 2013) Credit: AP

TOKYO -- Former major leaguer Wladimir Balentien has hit his 54th home run of the season to move within one of tying Japanese baseball's record.

Balentien has 22 regular-season games left to reach the mark of 55 set by Sadaharu Oh in 1964 and matched by ex-major leaguers Tuffy Rhodes in 2001 and Alex Cabrera in 2002.

Balentien hit a two-run homer on Tuesday in the first inning at Jingu Stadium, but his Yakult Swallows lost to the Hiroshima Carp 9-3.

Balentien, who is from the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao, played for the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds before signing with the Swallows in 2011. He hit 31 homers in each of his first two seasons in Japan.

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