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Sandoval, Giants force fifth game
09/17/2007 12:23 AM ET
It took him 21 years, one month and five days, but Pablo Sandoval just experienced the best moment of his life.

Sandoval smacked a three-run homer as San Jose defeated visiting Lake Elsinore, 6-1, to force a decisive Game 5 in the California League Championship Series.

After Mark Minicozzi reached on an error to open the second inning and Eddy Martinez-Esteve singled, Sandoval lifted Cory Luebke's offering just inside the right-field foul pole for his second homer of the playoffs.

"I wasn't sure if it was going to stay fair or not," Sandoval said.

Once it hit the pole, "I felt like it was the best moment of my life," he said.

The 21-year-old catcher is hitting .267 and is tied for the team lead with seven postseason RBIs. The Giants, he said, are excited to still be alive after dropping the first two games of the series.

"This team likes to play at home," Sandoval said of the Giants, who were 42-28 at Municipal Stadium during the season. "Now, we're just waiting for the last game."

After the home run, Kyle Haines delivered a two-out, two-run double to give the Giants a 5-0 lead. Minicozzi provided insurance with an RBI single in the seventh.

Reliever Ronnie Ray (2-0) allowed a hit and walked one while fanning six over four shutout frames. The 23-year-old right-hander tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings in Friday's 3-2 loss and wasn't certain how his arm would respond on short rest.

"I wasn't sure how I was going to feel," said Ray, who went 11-8 with a 4.62 ERA in 24 starts but posted a 2.24 ERA in six relief appearances.

But he was pleased with how he pitched in what he said was "definitely" his biggest game since getting drafted in 2002.

"With the circumstances like they were, it was one of the best outings [of my career]," he said.

Starter Darren Sack yielded a run on two hits and three walks with one strikeout over three innings. Osiris Matos finished off the four-hitter with two scoreless innings, striking out four and surrendering one hit.

With home-field advantage heading into Game 5, Ray likes his team's chances.

"We were down a little bit after losing those first two games," said Ray, who credited manager Lenn Sakata for keeping the team focused. "We're feeling like the momentum is on our side now. We feel pretty good going into tomorrow."

Lake Elsinore starter Cory Luebke (1-1) allowed five runs -- two earned -- on three hits and two walks while striking out three over four innings.

Sean Kazmar belted a solo homer, his second of the playoffs, in the third for the Storm.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.