By Brad Fauber
STRASBURG -- Between the quick offensive explosion from Charles Town and the lack thereof for Strasburg, it didn't take long to realize that Monday's home game against the Cannons simply wasn't meant to be Strasburg's day.
Charles Town jumped on top early against Express starting pitcher Patrick McGavin and erupted for 10 runs on 16 hits through the first five innings en route to an 11-1 win.
Charles Town (18-17) finished the day with 18 hits, including eight for extra bases. The Cannons hit three home runs in the victory, which keeps them in second place in the North Division.
"We've got so many talented players on this team and it was nice for everyone to put together some good AB's and hit a couple home runs," Cannons manager Bobby Rauh said, "and just kind of prove to ourselves that that is the kind of team we are if we swing at good pitches and just keep working the way we've been."
McGavin (3-2), who had been solid on the mound for Strasburg (14-18) in his first five starts prior to Monday, immediately found trouble in the first inning against Charles Town, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks in the opening frame.
Cannons first baseman Pat Ammar reached on an infield single with one out in the top of the first, and Waldyvan Estrada followed with a walk to quickly put a runner in scoring position. Cody Hoffner cashed in with an RBI single with two outs to give the Cannons a 1-0 lead, and Emmanuel Marrero added an RBI single of his own one batter later to extend the lead to two.
Charles Town added another run in the second on an RBI double by Estrada, and Tyler Hibbert's RBI single to right field in the top of the third ended McGavin's outing. He lasted just 2 2/3 while giving up four runs on seven hits and four walks.
"[McGavin's] been really good for us, and the law of averages says you're going to fall off the table sooner or later," Express manager Butch Barnes said. "You'll only be good so many times out there, and you're going to have a bad time before things happen. Today was a bad time. He had a hard time locating."
Austin Clark came on in relief for Strasburg and didn't fair much better after getting the final out in the third inning, as Charles Town roughed him up for six runs on nine hits in his two innings of work.
Estrada (3-for-4, double, home run, 3 RBIs) led off the top of the fourth inning with a solo home run down the left-field line to give the Cannons a 5-0 lead, and Matt Durst followed with a double and later scored on a Strasburg error as he attempted to steal third base.
Charles Town blew the game open in the fifth, as the Cannons recorded six straight hits off Clark -- including back-to-back home runs by Durst and Culmer -- for four runs to take a 10-1 lead.
"I've been stressing to the guys just to be loose and relaxed, and just have fun, really," Rauh said. "Guys have done a good job of simplifying their approach and they know what pitch they're looking for. With the type of hitters that we have on this team, they're on time with pitches and putting good swings on balls. A lot of times we're going to put them hard in play, and that's all you can ask for."
Charles Town provided plenty of offense for starting pitcher David Rumsey, who made just his second start of the season after spending most of the summer in the Cannons' bullpen. Rumsey went six innings while scattering six hits and two walks. Rumsey's only blemish came on a solo home run by Strasburg third baseman Cameron Johnson in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Cannons managed another run in the top of the ninth inning off Trace Vorbeck after the Strasburg trio of Alex Tucci, Bandon Hallford and David Hafer held Charles Town hitless over 3 1/3 innings.
With Monday's loss, the Express finds itself a game behind Front Royal for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division with about two weeks remaining in the regular season.
"You've just got to regroup. I try not to make that big a deal about it. We played two really good games right before this ... and came up with W's. We thought we had turned the corner and then you get something like this," Barnes said. "It's baseball. It's not a fair game, it's a game meant for failure.
"In our last 10 games we probably need to go 7-3 to secure our spot. If we go 7-3, I think that will put us in pretty good position. We'll get on the bus and go to Aldie [today] and we'll get it done."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org