Class A Great Lakes manager John Shoemaker did not pen Brandon Lewis' name on to the lineup card in either of the first two games of the opening-round Midwest League playoff series against Lake County. But with a lefty facing his team in a must-win game, the skipper saw a matchup he could potentially exploit and slotted him eighth as the designated hitter.
Lewis rewarded Shoemaker's hunch as the Dodgers prospect homered twice and drove in four runs Friday, helping the Loons blank the Captains, 5-0, in the decisive third game of the opening-round series and advance to the semifinals.
With two on and two out in the second inning, the fourth-round pick in this year's Draft sent an opposite-field, three-run homer over the right field wall to break a scoreless tie.
"Getting a lead in a game is really important," Shoemaker said.
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The Loons scratched across another run in the third and took a 4-0 lead into the seventh. On a 1-2 pitch from reliever Nick Gallagher, Lewis cleared the wall in right once more for a solo shot.
"He came through," Shoemaker said. "He's got power to all fields."
Shoemaker believes that Lewis' appearances of the bench in the first two games of the series allowed him to settle in.
"I think that helped him calm down. At least it wasn't his first action of the series," he said. "He's been working really hard in the batting cage trying to get his swing right, more consistent. It paid off tonight."
The UC Irvine product has displayed his power stroke since being drafted. In 32 games with Rookie Advanced Ogden, he hit 12 homers -- including three in one game -- and posted a 1.146 OPS with 39 RBIs. Through 12 contests during the Midwest League regular season, the 20-year-old hit .167 with one home run.
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Great Lakes starter Jose Chacin, who'd allowed 14 earned runs in his previous three starts, made Lewis' outburst stand up. He retired 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced on the way to seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
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"First of all, Jose was coming off plenty of rest," Shoemaker said. "He hadn't pitched in a while, just because of the way the playoffs were working and the end of the season. He pitched an excellent game. He had good control of his fastball."
Aaron Ochsenbein whiffed three of the six hitters he faced over two perfect frames to seal the win.
The Loons face South Bend in the best-of-3 semifinals, beginning Saturday.
In other Midwest League action:
Kernels 4, River Bandits 2
Twins No. 7 prospect Wander Javier singled in a run and scored in the fourth inning, then whacked a triple as Cedar Rapids eliminted Quad Cities. Gabe Snyder got things started early for the Kernels with a solo homer in the first. Cedar Rapids starter Josh Winder tossed six scoreless frames, scattering six hits and striking out seven. Austin Schulfer went the final 2 1/3 frames to pick up the save. The Kernels face Clinton in the semifinals. Jose Alberto Rivera struck out 13 out of the Quad Cities bullpen, giving up a run on four hits and a walk over five innings. Gameday box score