Milwaukee Bear Claws starter Benicio Torrenueva is a well-known bullfighting aficionado, and he approaches his starts like a matador preparing to enter the ring. With the charged-up playoff atmosphere and a fierce opponent in the Knoxville Smokies, Game 2 of the Patriot Series definitely felt more like the San Fermin festival in Pamplona than a cool September night in Milwaukee.
Fortunately for the fans at High Life Field, the man known as “The Toreador” was up to the task. With the Bear Claws desperately in need of a win, Torrenueva fired a complete-game shutout to defeat the Smokies, 4-0.
“Torre was in top form today,” said Milwaukee manager Poss Horton. “If it was up to me, I’d award him both Snuff’s ears and his tail.” The latter remark was a playful jab at Knoxville manager Snuff Wallace, who predicted a sweep at the beginning of the series.
Torrenueva (1-0) has struggled in cold-weather games before, but tonight he was masterful. He limited the Smokies to four hits, all singles. The only Knoxville batter that gave him trouble was the cleanup hitter, RF Jackson Campo, who went 2-for-2 with a walk.
Torrenueva seemed to feed off the energy of the crowd. As he worked through each scoreless inning, the fans’ roars grew louder. When the left-hander strode off the field at each inning’s end, he swept his arms upward and then bowed to the crowd, which did everything but throw roses at his feet.
“He sure has a flair for the dramatic, doesn’t he?” said Horton.
The closest that the Smokies came to scoring was in the 6th, when Torrenueva walked the bases loaded. But then he got SS Armand Moriarty to hit a weak pop-up to first. As 1B Felipe Mateo squeezed the ball to end the inning, the crowd worked itself into an ecstatic frenzy of delight. Torrenueva thumped his chest, then pointed to Mateo before taking another sweeping bow for the crowd.
After the game, the typically reserved pitcher gave a passionate interview in Spanish, in which he dedicated the victory to the people of Milwaukee. “I felt them with me all the way,” said Torrenueva. “The cheers of the fans are like the blood flowing through my veins. They give me the strength and energy to triumph. I will not rest until I have brought the championship to these wonderful people and this beautiful city.”
Torrenueva also credited Bear Claws C Frances McGuigan, who snuffed out a couple early Knoxville threat. In the 1st, McGuigan caught Smokies 2B Jeremiah Campo wandering off first base and picked him off and end the inning. McGuigan then ended the 2nd by throwing out the other Campo brother, who was trying to steal second.
“Frank is the most heads-up player in the game,” Horton said. “He doesn’t usually get talked about, but he’s done as much to help us this year as anyone.”
On the other side, Smokies starter Jack Jacques (0-1) turned in an unimpressive performance, surrendering 14 hits over his 8 innings. He failed to record a single 1-2-3 inning in the game, and found himself pitching in trouble for most of the game.
“That wasn’t the Jack I’m used to seeing,” said Wallace. “He’s always been this cold-blooded assassin, but today he didn’t assassinate nobody.”
In the 2nd, Jacques needed Moriarty to bail him out of a two-on, one-out jam. The Knoxville shortstop speared a sharp grounder from McGuigan, which he turned into an inning-ending double play. But when the big right-hander got into trouble in the 3rd, neither Moriarty nor anyone else could save him.
Bear Claws CF DeRonde Maxwell and SS Red Petitt both jumped on first pitches from Jacques, driving them for back-to-back singles. 2B Richard Iddings then laid down a bunt that moved the runners up for Mateo. Jacques’ 1-1 splitter to the Milwaukee first baseman broke toward the heart of the plate, and Mateo drilled it to the upper deck in right for a three-run homer.
In the 5th, Milwaukee laced four straight singles that led to another run. Thanks to Torrenueva’s dominant performance, the Bear Claws had more than enough to win.
“Except for Felipe’s homer, we weren’t really hitting [Jacques] that hard,” said Horton. “But it worked.”
Horton contrasted his team’s approach to that of the Smokies, who kept taking big swings against Torrenueva, only to swing and miss or hit harmless flies and pop-ups. “The Smokies were trying to bash the ball to the moon, and Torre used that against them. You don’t need big hits to win. You can beat a guy by chipping away at him again and again, like we did. They’re trying to make it on SportsCenter; we’re just trying to win games.”
It may be too soon to say the momentum has shifted in the Patriot Series, but it certainly felt that way. The last out of the game came on a slow roller to short by Smokies C Prince Carlo. After Petitt scooped the ball and fired it to first, he turned toward the Knoxville dugout and shouted at Wallace. “You got something to say now, Big Mouth?” Petitt barked. For once, the ever-loquacious Smokies manager was silent.
The series now shifts to Rocky Top Park in Knoxville, tied 1-1. In Game 3, Bear Claws right-hander Herculez Mendoza will match up against rookie Smokies lefty Woody Flowers.
9/23/2015, KNX15-MIL15, High Life Stadium 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E LOB DP 2015 Smokies 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 8 1 2015 Bear Claws 0 0 3 0 1 0 0 0 x 4 14 1 8 0 Smokies AB R H BI AVG Bear Claws AB R H BI AVG Blair cf 3 0 0 0 .375 Petitt ss 4 1 1 0 .143 Campo 2b 4 0 0 0 .125 Iddings 2b 3 0 0 0 .143 Bryant dh 3 0 0 0 .125 Mateo 1b 4 2 3 3 .571 Campo rf 2 0 2 0 .714 Suzuki 3b 4 0 2 0 .375 Moriarty ss 4 0 0 0 .000 Mealey lf 4 0 2 0 .429 Battin 1b 4 0 0 0 .250 Raine dh 4 0 2 1 .333 Aceuedo 3b 3 0 1 0 .167 Trumbauer rf 4 0 1 0 .125 Kurland ph 1 0 0 0 .000 McGuigan c 4 0 2 0 .250 Carlo c 3 0 0 0 .286 Maxwell cf 4 1 1 0 .250 Johnson lf 3 0 1 0 .286 35 4 14 4 30 0 4 0 Smokies INN H R ER BB K PCH STR ERA Jacques L 0-1 8.0 14 4 4 0 5 128 92 4.50 8.0 14 4 4 0 5 128 92 Bear Claws INN H R ER BB K PCH STR ERA Torrenueva W 1-0 9.0 4 0 0 4 4 133 71 0.00 9.0 4 0 0 4 4 133 71 KNX: Kurland batted for Aceuedo in the 9th E-Petitt. HR-Mateo(1). RBI-Mateo 3(3), Raine(1). CS-Campo. K-Campo, Moriarty, Battin 2, Petitt 2, Iddings, Suzuki, Trumbauer. BB-Blair, Bryant, Campo, Carlo. SH-Iddings. HBP-Campo. HB-Torrenueva. GWRBI: Mateo Temperature: 55, Sky: cloudy, Wind: out to center at 4 MPH.