It was 2:07 am. The Mariners slept soundly in their hotel beds. Worn out from an exhausting 13-run affair the day before, they dreamt of how they would do damage to Dean Kremer in their next game. That is when it happened.
Unbeknownst to anyone in the city, a hole in the very fabric of time opened up beneath and around Baltimore. Everyone, the baseball players, the shoemakers, the lawyers, the cab drivers, and the sous chefs were pulled upthread by 1397 days. While they lay sleeping, the largest city in Maryland was moved into 2019.
Everyone, that is, except the baseball delivery truck. While normally, enough balls are delivered for an entire series, the game before had gone on for so long and the Mariners had racked up so many hits that there were no game-ready balls left in Baltimore. The emergency replacements wouldn’t arrive until the morning, and as such, there were no baseballs from 2023 in the city as they traveled through time.
As the day dawned, no one in city realized their predicament. How could they? It was so absurd that it could not cross anyone’s mind. And besides, the sky was blue, the water was green, and it was Saturday. The city’s pride parade went off as planned, with no one noticing the sudden lack of a good 5G signal. The staff at Camden Yards were the first to notice that something was wrong when, as game time approached, their emergency ball delivery hadn’t arrived. An angry phone call to a slightly younger-sounding and confused Rob Manfred later, however, and new balls were sourced. From outside the city. 2019 balls.
As the game started, no one noticed that the balls had suddenly started eating balanced breakfasts, mostly because of how well the starting pitchers did in the first inning. Mariners starter Bryce Miller had the slightly worse frame, giving up a squib single to Anthony Santander. The Orioles scored first in the bottom of the second, with Adam Frazier - of all people - hitting a line drive that went maybe just a bit further than it should have, scoring Gunnar Henderson. So far, so normal.
And then came the top of the third. And that’s when the weird started.
You may notice Aaron Goldsmith’s delayed reaction to that home run. That’s because it had a 46 degree launch angle, the highest LA of any home run hit in the (technically) 2023 season. He, as did most of us, assumed it was going to be a high flyout.
⚾Mike Ford! HR (5)— Home Run Report (@homerunreport) June 24, 2023
My, oh, my! ️
6/24/23 @ BAL, ⬆️ 3rd
vs RHP Dean Kremer
109.0 MPH / 46° / 379 ft to RF
Off a 94.7 MPH four-seam fb
▶️It's a home run in 29/30 parks.◀️
️(Not in BOS.)
See this play in Gameday: https://t.co/I0qbNcW79Q pic.twitter.com/1E5WayHql0
After Kolten Wong grounded out (nothing unusual there), J.P. Crawford stepped up to bat, still ruminating on what Mike Ford just did.
Take a look at where that pitch was. And he pulled it down the line for a line drive home run. With a launch angle of 21 degrees and a max height of 49 feet, that ball got out of here.
⚾J.P. Crawford! HR (5)— Home Run Report (@homerunreport) June 24, 2023
My, oh, my! ️
6/24/23 @ BAL, ⬆️ 3rd
vs RHP Dean Kremer
102.8 MPH / 21° / 354 ft to RF
Off a 78.9 MPH sweeper
▶️It's a home run in 25/30 parks.◀️
️(Not in CHC, COL, MIL, MIN, PIT.)
See this play in Gameday: https://t.co/C4Bk95cznI pic.twitter.com/0lgxEVYfXO
At this point, the Mariners looked at each other in the dugout, each player silently communicating something insane. They were in 2019. And the balls were juiced.
They tried to tell Bryce Miller, a rookie who never before contended with these balls to avoid fly balls at any cost. But they found themselves unable to say the words. No matter what they tried their voice died in their throats. Whatever magical force had transported them through time was also preventing them from talking about it. The pitcher was doomed.
It was Anthony Santander who first showed Miller what the juiced ball was like, sending a mistake changeup over the pitchers head at 102 mph for a 415 foot home run. Now the game was tied. 4 runs had scored, with 3 coming from solo home runs. Santander would not be the last.
By now, the Orioles had similarly worked out their quantum transportation, and were selling out for the homerun. They did all they could to turn the Mariners pitcher’s name around on him, and ground Miller down in every plate appearance. In the bottom of the fifth, with a runner on second, Miller threw his 95th pitch of the game, and issued a walk to Adley Rutschman. Matt Brash came in to replace him. Brash started his career with the strange deadball of 2022. In 2019, he stood no chance. Santander, who had an average 2019 season, was relishing the opportunity to get a second chance with the juiced ball. His third hit of the night scored Frazier from second, giving Santander his 2nd RBI. 2-3 Baltimore.
Julio led off the next inning, and despite not playing in the 2019 MLB season, he knew what he wanted to do.
home run derby mode activated pic.twitter.com/zsfx7owq7t— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 24, 2023
At this point everyone only had one goal, and that was to hit the ball hard. Aaron Hicks is another Baltimore player who had a definitionally mediocre 2019 season, but even he managed to give a baseball a good 426ft ride off of Gabe Speier.
Somehow, nearly an entire inning passed with no home runs. But it did not pass without consequence.
Andres Munoz, fresh off the IL was sent out to start the 7th inning. At first, all seemed normal, with him dismantling rising star Adley Rutschman with an absolutely unfair slider.
Andrés Muñoz, Dirty 88mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/ztTuHPUYeb— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 24, 2023
But right after that he gave up a single to, you guessed it, Anthony Santander, and we all knew that something was wrong. The 2019 air was wrong, and Andres was feeling it. It was either too hot or too humid or too smoggy or all three, but he was lightheaded and had to leave the game. Perhaps a return to 2023 will be good for him.
Munoz left the game because he was light-headed. Got checked out by doctors here at the park. Servais said he thinks he will be fine.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) June 24, 2023
Ty Adcock came in to replace him, and Ryan O’Hearn wanted in on the fun. But Julio, after watching his own home run, knew exactly how to play the 2019 ball and made what is probably the catch of the year.
That's why they call it the No Fly Zone ♂️ pic.twitter.com/hGlGGDFeFA— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 24, 2023
Now it was the 8th inning and pitchers had realized how to work around the old ball. Despite back-to-back singles from J.P. and Julio to lead off the inning, the Mariners were unable to cash in. It would come down to the ninth inning. Felix Bautista, one of the best relivers in the game, came in to protect a one-run lead. Eugenio tried to tie the game, but even the power hitting third-baseman could not make solid contact off of Bautista. He flew out. Cal followed him by striking out swinging at a 100 mph fastball at the knees. One out to go. Mike Ford, remembering is first stint in 2019, stepped into the box. Bautista threw another triple digit fastball. But this one went down the middle.
Mike Ford: The Power from Princeton. pic.twitter.com/AZJeHfDrvc— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 24, 2023
Had the Mariners won this game, this would have been the moment that the timeline was corrected, and the thread repaired. Alas, in the top of the tenth, the M’s failed to score ghost runner Kolten Wong. And in the bottom of the tenth, the Orioles got one more crack at what was, for them, a 108 loss season.
As it stands, we do not know if this walk-off home run sent the city of Baltimore back to where it belongs. As outside observers, all we can see at the moment is a large, dark, spherical hole where the city used to be. Perhaps tomorrow it will return. Will the Mariners come with it?