Chicago — The Tigers are going to have some decisions to make relative to their starting rotation in the month of September.
And right-hander Buck Farmer may have put himself into the conversation with a solid performance Saturday in the Tigers’ 6-3 win over the White Sox.
“That’s not my decision, but I am pretty sure he will start again in another five days; we have a doubleheader coming up,” said Gene Lamont, who managed the game from the fifth inning on after Brad Ausmus was ejected. “He did a nice job down in Toledo and I am sure he’s going to get a chance.”
Farmer, who shut out the White Sox over 6.1 innings with 11 strikeouts on May 27, wasn’t quite as dominant this time. But through the first five innings, the only damage was a two-run home run by Yolmer Sanchez.
“His command was a lot better, I thought,” Lamont said. “He was keeping the ball down and away to right-handers and changing speeds. I don’t know if he ran out of gas there in the sixth or what.”
After getting the first two outs in the sixth, he walked Avisail Garcia on four pitches, then allowed a single to Matt Davidson and an RBI double to Tim Anderson.
“For some reason, that’s a pitcher’s worst nightmare — getting two quick outs,” Farmer said. “I don’t know why. You see it more times than not. You get two quick outs and the next thing you know you are 3-0 on the next guy.
“Maybe the game speeds up right there. You got two quick outs and you just want to keep it rolling.”
His night was over at 77 pitches and he left with a 5-3 lead after left-hander Daniel Stumpf struck out Sanchez to end the sixth.
The Tigers bullpen locked this one down tight: Stumpf (two strikeouts), Warwick Saupold (two-thirds, one walk, one strikeout), Alex Wilson (one-third, one hit, one walk) and Shane Greene (five-out save).
It was Greene’s second five-out save in three days.
“I felt good,” he said. “I feel better now that I am pitching more. The more I pitch, the better I feel. It’s kind of weird, but that’s how it is.”
He entered a first-and-second, one-out mess in the eighth and got Tim Anderson to hit into a 5-4-3 double play.
Then he created some drama for himself in the ninth. With two outs and a runner on second, he booted a ball hit slowly back to him by Alen Hanson. Tyler Saladino was next, representing the tying run.
And looming on deck was the ever-dangerous Jose Abreu.
“Hitters have no names and no faces,” Greene said. “If I make my pitches I am going to come out on top most of the time.”
Greene froze Saladino with a 96-mph fastball to end the game.
“Greene got some big outs, but I thought Stumpf and Saupold got big outs, too,” Lamont said. “Stumpf turned Sanchez around (to hit right-handed, which is his weaker side) and got a big strikeout there.
“But the 27th out is always the biggest, especially when you’ve got Abreu sitting there.”
This was the Farmer’s third big-league win, two of them coming here in Chicago. His presence is further crowding the Tigers rotation.
Two starters — left-hander Daniel Norris (groin, quad) and right-hander Anibal Sanchez (hamstring) are nearly ready to come off the disabled list. Each of them is likely to need another rehab start before the Triple-A season ends in early next month.
Norris made his third rehab start at Toledo Saturday and it was a mixed bag. He needed 77 pitches to get through three innings. He gave up four runs on five hits (including a home run) and four walks. He struck out five.
Sanchez threw a bullpen on Friday and reported no discomfort. But he hasn’t pitched since Aug. 18, so more than likely, he will make a start for Toledo next week.
But those two will be back in September, joining Farmer, Justin Verlander, Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd and Jordan Zimmermann — seven starting pitchers for five spots.
“We talked about going to a six-man rotation about a week and a half ago, but we haven’t revisited it,” manager Brad Ausmus said before the game. “We will wait and see how it goes before we make another decision.”
Ausmus, who was ejected for beefing the strike zone of rookie home plate umpire Nick Mahrley, said one option could be to keep Verlander and Fulmer on a regular, every-fifth-day schedule and try to rotate the others on the other days.
“It’s something we talked about — just sort of preliminary discussions,” Ausmus said. “It never went past that point and it hasn’t been discussed since. But it would be an option.”
The September starts will be important, especially for Boyd, Norris and Farmer, all of whom are still trying to establish themselves at the major league level.
“I want guys to pitch well, first of all,” Ausmus said. “But there are some guys who might want to prove some things to the organization and the fans, and show that what we’ve seen, the inconsistencies we’ve seen, isn’t the finished product. That they are better than that.”
Farmer made two brilliant starts in May, 13 straight shutout innings. Then he followed that up with two horrendous ones (13 runs in 4? innings) and was sent back to Toledo. But he was on his game for five innings Saturday.
He threw 36 two-seam fastballs with an average velocity of 91.2 mph, and he was hitting his spots and working ahead in the count for the most part.
“It’s funny, but I go to Triple-A and I don’t use my two-seamer at all,” Farmer said. “I come up here and it’s like jumping into the fire and I use it and it’s effective. I don’t know why. I’ve never really thought about it, but it’s a different pitch up here.”
His slider, which he was throwing between 79-82 mph, was effective off the well-located fastballs. He threw 23 sliders and got five swings and misses.
“You might see some guys get opportunities (in September),” Ausmus said. “But Al (Avila, general manager) lets the coaches and myself handle that. We could go to a six-man rotation to allow guys to keep playing. But what it comes down to is just whoever can help us win games.”
Farmer just wants off the I-75 shuttle.
“Starter or bullpen, it doesn’t matter to me,” Farmer said. “I just hope I’m here to stay through the rest of this year.”
The Tigers offense awakened Saturday, as well.
Justin Upton (28) and Miguel Cabrera (14) hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning off left-hander Carlos Rodon. Upton’s was a two-run shot. Cabrera had three hits.
“He keeps getting close (to breaking out),” Lamont said. “We just need to stay patient. We know he can hit. It’s not like he doesn’t have a good track record. It would be nice if he gets hot over these last five weeks.”
The Tigers scored two more in the fourth. Ian Kinsler, who was fighting a 3 for 27 skid at the time, singled home Andrew Romine who had doubled. Kinsler stole second and scored on a single by Dixon Machado.
Romine’s sacrifice fly in the seventh inning finished the scoring.
The win was just the Tigers’ 25th in 65 road games, and their fifth in the last 25 games overall.