Audio: Lewis puts the Giants on top
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Fred Lewis homered twice Tuesday as the San Jose Giants topped the Visalia Oaks, 7-5, to win the California League North Division Finals in four games.
Continuing a rehab assignment, Lewis stroked a solo shot in the third inning and a two-run blast in the sixth to power the Giants into the California League Championship Series against the Lake Elsinore Storm.
The 26-year-old left fielder, who has been nursing an ankle injury, hit .275 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 51 games with San Francisco after batting .292 in 42 games for Triple-A Fresno.
"No question, his contributions were enormous tonight," said San Jose manager Lenn Sakata. "I like him and it's nice that he fits in with the club. He's been a positive influence on the ballclub, but I would expect that he gets called up shortly."
While Lewis' bat has provided a much-needed spark for the Giants, Sakata isn't sure he'll be able to pencil him into the lineup for the upcoming series.
"I'm thinking after today he may be recalled, unless [the Giants] want him to get a few more at-bats," the manager said. "Tonight he helped his cause, but he's still not quite where he needs to be."
San Jose scored four runs in the sixth to take a commanding 7-3 lead. Travis Ishikawa lined a leadoff single and Pablo Sandoval followed with a two-run homer, his first of the series. Brian Bocock drew a one-out walk before Lewis smashed a two-run drive over the wall in right.
Travis Denker had doubled home Ben Copeland with one out in the first to stake the Giants to a 1-0 lead. San Jose tacked on two runs in the third on Lewis' first homer of the night and Ishikawa's RBI single.
Reliever Ronnie Ray (1-0) picked up the win, despite surrendering three runs -- two earned -- on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts in four innings. Sergio Romo struck out Frank Curreri to end the game and seal the Giants' second trip to the Finals in three years.
Romo recorded the final four outs, fanning three. San Jose was 62-0 when leading after eight innings during the season.
Giants starter Darren Sack walked two and allowed one hit in a two-inning stint.
"We were going to piece it together with starting pitching," Sakata said. "Ray has been a starter all year, but we wanted to use him as a piggyback after someone else. They both did a good job. Ray weathered some tough innings, but it worked out well, we scored enough runs."
Sakata said he wasn't too concerned about relying on his bullpen in such a pivotal game.
"At this point in the year, all our starters are pretty much on fumes. We want to get as much as we can and we need whoever can throw the ball forward, piece it all together and get to our bullpen," he explained.
Visalia made it close in the eighth when Pedro Ciriaco and Greg Thomson lined RBI singles to cut the deficit to 7-5. The Oaks scored in the third when Derek Bruce reached on shortstop Bocock's error and came home on a base hit by John Hester.
Ciriaco singled home Bryan Byrne in the fourth and Gerardo Parra tied the game at 3-3 with a leadoff homer, his first of the series, in the fifth.
Oaks starter Matthew Torra (1-1) was reached for six runs on 11 hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out six.
Looking ahead to the best-of-5 championship series, Sakata said, "We're pretty evenly matched. They have a good offensive team and they play well at home. We're going to need to get a better performance from our starters. Our problems have been offensively, we haven't scored enough runs, especially in the second half. Travis Denker and Mark Minicozzi have helped us, but it takes a collective effort."
NOTES: Sakata said that Lewis, despite the home runs, is not playing at 100 percent. "The question mark is still is his foot, so I'm not sure how he'd respond to playing every day. He's still limping around a little bit, but he's showing improvement. He should be ready to go soon." ... San Jose went 6-5 against Lake Elsinore during the season but hit just .267 as a team.
Danny Wild is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.