DETROIT -- Buck Farmer tossed 13 scoreless innings over his first two Tigers starts. He allowed 13 runs over 4 2/3 innings in his next two, including seven runs in Sunday's 9-1 loss to the Rays. As a result, Farmer's next start will be for Triple-A Toledo.
Farmer's fall from Tigers folk hero to a Mud Hen again was so swift, so extreme, it could make for a country ballad. But it's an example of baseball being a game of adjustments. In the Majors, between ample video and small armies of scouts, the adjustments come quickly.
"He obviously had two very good outings and two rough ones," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "But big league hitters are tough. They're a lot more adept at taking advantage of mistakes. You might get by a couple times making mistakes, but they'll take advantage eventually."
The Tigers had a rotation move lined up before Farmer took the mound Sunday. Anibal Sanchez was back in the clubhouse, set to rejoin the team and start Monday's series opener at Seattle. No return move was set at that point, and Ausmus said they could go with a six-man rotation.
Once Farmer left in the third inning, having watched Steven Souza Jr. clear the bases for a grand slam and a 7-1 lead, the return move appeared clear. Ausmus said after the game that Sunday's performance, Farmer's second consecutive third-inning exit, played into the decision.
"It's always difficult getting sent down," Farmer said, "but you know what, it's probably for the best. The past two outings, that's not who I am. That's not how I pitch. Those aren't the results I know I can put up."
Farmer succeeded on command in his first two outings, pitching into the seventh inning both times while allowing three singles each and three walks total. Still, hitters began to adjust. White Sox hitters swung and missed 22 times against him May 27, but the Angels did so just six times June 7, albeit for five strikeouts.
Farmer fell victim to the home-run ball and exited during the third inning in both outings this week. A pair of two-run homers sank him Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, with Paul Goldschmidt tagging a first-pitch fastball before Brandon Drury sent out a 3-0 pitch. On Sunday, Farmer got ahead of hitters but struggled to finish them off.
Logan Morrison sent a 1-2 fastball out on a line over the right-field fence to open the scoring in the first inning. Derek Norris fouled off a 1-2 fastball, then got under a slider to lead off the third.
Farmer had two-strike counts on five of the six batters he faced in the third Sunday, but retired only one. Corey Dickerson kept fouling off fastballs to escape an 0-2 count before singling on a 2-2 changeup. Farmer hit Evan Longoria with a 1-2 fastball, then walked Morrison on four pitches.
"In talking to him, he said he started aiming the ball," Ausmus said. "And when you start aiming it, a lot of times you don't finish your pitch. You're not attacking the hitter, and you end up doing exactly what you don't want to do."
But the pitch that doomed Farmer was the slider to Souza. He got away with one over the plate with a 2-0 count when Souza swung and missed. He did not miss the same pitch on 2-2.
"Slider just wasn't there," Farmer said. "It stayed up in the zone and flattened out. They made me pay."