By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- To hear Garret Autrey tell it, the thought that flashed through his mind as he watched a towering fourth-inning home run clear the fence at First Bank Park on Monday was simply this -- oops.
The Winchester Royals' rangy 6-foot-5, 212-pound left fielder had one of two homers in a 9-1 win over the Strasburg Express. But Autrey insists the hitter friendly park dimensions, not to mention a tempting breeze which at times blew straight out to center field, had nothing to do with a swing that triggered his second home-run trot of the season.
"I always say, 'Home runs are accidents.' You're always trying to go up there and hit line drives," said Autrey, who plays collegiately at Lamar University. "I just got some good wood on it, and it went."
Autrey (2 for 4, four RBIs) had plenty of company on the base paths as the Royals kept up their hot hitting against the host Express (7-14). Winchester tallied 10 hits off Strasburg pitching, and combined that output with a generous helping of walks to make it an easy outing for Royals starting pitcher James Baune. A right-hander, Baune set the tone by fanning the side in the bottom of the first inning. The Southern Arkansas University hurler went seven strong innings for Winchester (15-6), allowing only Zach Wiley's solo home run in the fourth.
"We've been swinging it well," Winchester manager Steve Sabins said. "Our guys continue to have good at bats. It was really nice tonight -- James Baune, our starter, that was the best outing he's had all year. He got here a little late, so he's kind of getting in shape.
"Tonight he kind of proved why he needs to be a once-a-week starter for us. He was kind of on a mission to go deep [into the game] which was really nice because our bullpen needed a rest."
Autrey spoiled what was shaping up as a pitchers' duel between Baune and Strasburg starter Baron Davis with his opposite-field homer with one out in the fourth.
Wiley, Strasburg's designated hitter who plays at LeMoyne, tied it with a homer of his own in the bottom of the inning.
Davis abruptly lost his command after that, issuing a one-out walk to Ethan Harris, then hitting Leo Rojas (3 for 5, three runs scored) to put a pair of runners aboard. James Yezzo drew a walk one out later to load the bases, then consecutive walks to Joseph Odom and Autrey forced in two more runs before reliever Adam Cherry came on to record the final out.
"He did have command to start off with, and his pitches were working for him," Strasburg manager Butch Barnes said of Davis. "He just lost it."
Cherry ran into trouble of his own in the seventh, as Rojas led off with an infield single and Brad Picha followed with a soaring home run to the opposite field in right-center field.
"Seriously, in batting practice we probably hit 35, 40 home runs," Sabins said. "It's one of those things where you've got to tone it back, not let the dimensions of the field play with your swing because it's easy to kind of aim to put it out of the ballpark. Usually you don't get great results when you do that."
Autrey later added a two-run double and Alan Filauro had an RBI single to cap the five-run rally for Winchester.
"Everyone's been hitting good all year," Autrey said. "We've just got to keep doing what we've been doing."
The Royals tacked on one more run in the eighth on Odom's RBI groundout off reliever Anthony Buonopane.
Strasburg managed four hits, with just two leaving the infield.
"We're struggling right now," Barnes said. "We've just got to work through it. We've had a long stretch ... of course, that's no excuse -- they've had a long stretch, too."
The Express hope to add a few players to a roster depleted by injury. The current shortage has taxed the bullpen and led to greater wear and tear on everyone.
"We need to make some more quality pitches, but we also need to hit the baseball," Barnes said. "It seems like that comes in streaks for us. A lot of times we'll do it on the same day, but they're two and three days apart."