Wladimir Balentien continued his torrid World Baseball Classic run with his tournament-leading fourth home run in the first inning of the Netherlands' 4-3 semifinal loss against Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium on Monday night.
Balentien crushed an 89-mph fastball from Puerto Rico starter Jorge Lopez over the wall in left-center field to give the Dutch an early 2-0 lead. The blast measured 422 feet, with an exit velocity of 111 mph per Statcast™. That was the seventh hardest-hit ball in WBC 2017.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Balentien punctuated the moment by flipping his bat toward his dugout and beating his chest before beginning his trot around the bases. Later in the game, Balentien came to the plate in the 10th inning against reliever Edwin Diaz. Diaz threw a fastball up and in, leading to words being exchanged between the two, and both teams' benches clearing before order was restored.
"I know it was not on purpose. It's part of the game," Balentien said. "You know, both teams want to win, so it's things that happen when you really play hard and put your heart in everything. Sometimes those kinds of plays just go like the way it went, but I never thought he tried to hit me."
"I believe that the game was played with lots of emotion," Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens said. "It's part of the game when the pitcher throws so hard and the batter has so much power. ... But I don't think that anything happened there. I don't think that had any effect on the remainder of the game."
Balentien, 32, is a former Major Leaguer who has played for the Yakult Swallows of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball Organization since 2011. He finished one home run shy of the all-time Classic record of five, set by South Korea's Seung-Yeop Lee in '06. He came inches away from tying that record with a double off the very top of the wall in left field in the fifth.
Balentien has hit 185 homers in Japan, including an NPB-record 60 for the Swallows in 2013, a season in which he posted a 1.234 OPS. Prior to playing in Japan, Balentien played in the Majors from 2007-09 with the Mariners and Reds. In 170 MLB games, he hit .221/.281/.374 with 15 home runs.
"I'm always thinking that I can get a second chance to play in the Major Leagues," he said. "I worked for this. I was focused, I wanted to win. I don't know if I will be here in four years, I'm getting older, but I did all I can do for my country. I hoped we could finish where we left four years ago, but it didn't go the way we wanted and we've got to regroup and come back."
In the final game of his Major League career, Balentien hit a 495-foot moonshot into the upper deck of Great American Ball Park off Pirates right-hander Daniel McCutchen.
"He had a great tournament, and I hope he gets a chance to come back to the States to play in the Major Leagues," said teammate Jurickson Profar. "I think he can, he can do it. He's a great hitter. Not only power, but a great hitter."
Balentien has always played well in the Classic. In 14 Classic games dating back to 2013, he's batting .469. All of his Classic homers, however, have come in this year's tournament.
The World Baseball Classic runs through Wednesday. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.