On the day after Red Sox closer Koji Uehara (Neyagawa, Osaka) retired four more batters to run his streak to 31 straight batters retired in Boston’s 2-0 win in Tampa, we focus on two players currently starring in Japan.
Former Red and Mariner Wladimir Balentien hit his 55th home run today, tying Japanese baseball’s single-season record. Balentien matched the mark set by Sadaharu Oh in 1964 and equaled by ex-major leaguers Tuffy Rhodes in 2001 and Alex Cabrera in 2002. He has 21 regular-season games left to break the record.
Balentien missed the first 12 games of this season, in which Japan is using a new, livelier baseball, because of a leg injury sustained while playing for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.
Former New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui wore No. 55 in recognition of Oh’s mark.
Last Friday, Masahiro Tanaka, the ace of the Pacific League’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, improved his record to 20-0. Tanaka now has 24 consecutive wins, tying the MLB record set by the New York Giants’ Carl Hubbell in 1936-37.
The 24-year old righty has a 1.24 ERA and has whiffed 155 batters in 181 IP. This could be the third consecutive season his ERA will end up below 2.00.
News media outlets in Japan indicate that Tanaka will request the Eagles put him up for auction via the posting system later this year.