Patriot Series Game 2

Milwaukee Bear ClawsKnoxville SmokiesMILWAUKEE BEAR CLAWS 4, KNOXVILLE SMOKIES 0

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.


Patriot Series Game 1

Knoxville SmokiesMilwaukee Bear ClawsKNOXVILLE SMOKIES 6, MILWAUKEE BEAR CLAWS 3

Prior to the beginning of the inaugural Patriot Series, Milwaukee Bear Claws manager Poss Horton expressed cautious optimism about his team’s chances.  “Obviously, Knoxville’s a good team,” said Horton.  “But we’ve shown all year that we’re pretty darn good too, and resilient.  I expect it’ll be a hard-fought series, but I like our chances.”

His opposing counterpart, Knoxville Smokies skipper Snuff Wallace, had a blunter assessment, as is his wont.  “We’re gonna sweep,” said Wallace.  “The Bear Claws have been on cruise control since the All-Star Break.  They’re overrated, and I think the time is ripe for us to show the world who the real kings are.”

It remains to be seen whose forecast is closer to the mark, but round one went to Wallace and the Smokies.  On a chilly night at High Life Field in Milwaukee, the Smokies got a strong performance from ace Elicio Santana and posted a 6-3 triumph.

“See, what’d I tell y’all?” said Wallace.  “Everybody’s been rushing to crown those guys, but they ain’t nothing special.  We got the total package: pitching, hitting, running.  They’ll be lucky to get a game off us!”

The Smokies set the tone for the game in the 1st inning.  CF Joe Blair singled on the first pitch he saw, and 2B Jeremiah Campo bunted him over to second.  DH Malcolm Bryant then smoked a 2-0 pitch to the gap in left-center, scoring Blair and giving Knoxville a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.  Even though Bryant tried to stretch his hit into a triple and was gunned down at third, costing the Smokies a potential big inning, Wallace praised his team’s aggressiveness.

“How you like that!” the Knoxville manager exclaimed.  “We walked right in there and grabbed a lead real quick.  That’s ballin’ with swagger!”

Smokies 1B Eddie Battin doubled his team’s lead with a solo homer to lead off the 2nd.

Meanwhile, Santana got off to a flying start for Knoxville, setting the Bear Claws down in order in the first three innings.  Milwaukee finally got on the board in the 4th.  SS Red Petitt walked on four pitches.  2B Richard Iddings battled Santana to a full count, then hit a swinging bunt down the third-base line that died in fair territory for an infield single.  1B Felipe Mateo grounded out to the right side, moving both runners up.  3B Ikaru Suzuki then brought Petitt home on a grounder to short.

Milwaukee had a chance for more after Santana walked LF Arthur Mealey and drilled DH Rodolfo Raine.  But Santana used his big sweeping curveball to strike out RF Wally Trumbauer, ending the threat.

“That was my tough inning,” said Santana.  “After that, I was rolling like a mountain stream.”

Santana (1-0) wound up going 7 innings, his only other blemish a solo homer by Mealey to lead off the 7th.  “I bet [the Bear Claws] are losing sleep thinkin’ about having to face him again,” said Wallace of his ace.

Despite Santana’s brilliant performance, though, the Smokies were far from assured of a victory.  Milwaukee ace Lou Mallory (0-1) had an uneven outing, but Knoxville often struggled to take advantage.  Blair singled in a run in the 5th to make it 3-1.  But when Bear Claws CF DeRonde Maxwell’s error gave the Smokies two runners in scoring position with one out in the 7th, they couldn’t cash in.  LF Track Johnson tried to sprint home on a Campo grounder, only to see himself thrown out by 10 feet on a perfect peg by Mateo.  Bryant then flied out to center to end the threat.

“I don’t give a damn,” said Wallace.  “I want us making hustle mistakes, aggressive mistakes.  Better that than wussing out.  Besides, we won.”

After Mealey’s 7th-innning blast got the Bear Claws back within one, the Smokies responded with a tally in the top of the 8th on a Ronnie Aceuedo sac fly.  Wallace then summoned rubber-armed reliever Rick Wilkins, who got two out sandwiched between a single and a walk.  Wallace went to his closer, Charlie Pasternak, who allowed an RBI single to Suzuki but retired Mealey on a fielder’s choice to end the inning with the lead intact.

The Smokies finally put it away in the 9th.  A clearly exhausted Mallory remained in the game; Horton finally pulled him after the Smokies stroked back-to-back singles to start the inning.  After the game, the Bear Claws skipper took the blame for leaving Mallory in too long.  Five of the 13 hits the starter surrendered came in the final two innings.

“I know I should have gone to the pen sooner,” said Horton.  “Lou didn’t lose this one, I did.  But it’s a long series, and I don’t want to burn up my relievers this early.”

Righty Timmy Almon got the Bear Claws out of the 9th, but not before allowing both inherited runners to score on a groundout and a wild pitch.

“I wasn’t on my A game today,” admitted Almon.  “This isn’t the time of year for that.  I’m going to have to tighten it up.”

In the bottom of the 9th, Pasternak pitched around a leadoff walk to secure the save.  He finished with a flourish, ending the game on back-to-back strikeouts.

“That’s just the first shot across the bow,” said Wallace.  “Expect us to bring the real fireworks tomorrow.”

With the win, the Smokies take a 1-0 lead in the series.  Tomorrow’s game at High Life Field will pit Knoxville right-hander Jack Jacques against Milwaukee southpaw Benicio Torrenueva.


9/22/2015, KNX15-MIL15, High Life Stadium
                       1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     R  H  E   LOB DP
2015 Smokies           1  1  0  0  1  0  0  1  2     6 13  0     8  0
2015 Bear Claws        0  0  0  1  0  0  1  1  0     3  5  1     6  0
Smokies              AB  R  H BI   AVG    Bear Claws           AB  R  H BI   AVG
Blair             cf  5  2  3  1  .600    Petitt            ss  3  2  0  0  .000
Campo             2b  4  1  1  0  .250    Iddings           2b  4  0  1  0  .250
Bryant            dh  5  0  1  2  .200    Mateo             1b  3  0  1  0  .333
Campo             rf  5  1  3  0  .600    Suzuki            3b  4  0  1  2  .250
Moriarty          ss  4  0  0  0  .000    Mealey            lf  3  1  1  1  .333
Battin            1b  4  1  2  1  .500    Raine             dh  2  0  0  0  .000
Aceuedo           3b  3  0  0  1  .000    Trumbauer         rf  4  0  0  0  .000
Carlo             c   4  1  2  0  .500    McGuigan          c   4  0  0  0  .000
Johnson           lf  4  0  1  0  .250    Maxwell           cf  4  0  1  0  .250
                     38  6 13  5                               31  3  5  3
Smokies                          INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Santana          W 1-0           7.0  3  2  2  2  5  85  49  2.57
Wilkins          H 1             0.2  1  1  1  1  0  15   7 13.50
Pasternak        S 1             1.1  1  0  0  1  2  20  13  0.00
                                 9.0  5  3  3  4  7 120  69 
Bear Claws                       INN  H  R ER BB  K PCH STR   ERA
Mallory          L 0-1           8.0 13  6  6  1  6 123  79  6.75
Almon                            1.0  0  0  0  0  0   7   6  0.00
                                 9.0 13  6  6  1  6 130  85 
E-Maxwell. 2B-Bryant(1), Campo 2(2), Carlo(1). HR-Battin(1), Mealey(1). 
RBI-Blair(1), Bryant 2(2), Battin(1), Aceuedo(1), Suzuki 2(2), Mealey(1). 
CS-Mateo. K-Blair, Bryant, Moriarty, Battin, Carlo, Johnson, Petitt, Raine, 
Trumbauer 2, McGuigan 2, Maxwell. BB-Moriarty, Petitt, Mateo, Mealey, Raine. 
SH-Campo. SF-Aceuedo. HBP-Raine. HB-Santana. WP-Almon. 
GWRBI: Bryant
Temperature: 48, Sky: partly cloudy, Wind: right to left at 8 MPH.