On the most important day of his young baseball career, Buck Farmer got to see what it took to get out Major League hitters, while also getting a glimpse of what it was like to have big league hitters on your own team.
Making his Major League debut for the Detroit Tigers, Farmer allowed four earned runs in five innings and left trailing by three to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but Detroit rallied to tie the game and help the Rockdale High School graduate avoid a loss Wednesday at Comerica Park.
Farmer, who was called up from Double-A to make the spot start for the Tigers, struck out four and walked just one batter and got a no-decision in Detroit’s 8-4 victory in interleague play.
In the top of the fourth, a tie game turned into a 4-1 Pittsburgh lead after Farmer had trouble with the bottom of the order, surrendering a run-scoring triple to No. 7 hitter Jody Mercer and No. 8 hitter Travis Snider’s two-run home run. Detroit came right back in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game and take Farmer off the hook. Alex Avila led off with his 10th home run of the year and later, reigning American League MVP Miguel Cabrera hit a sacrifice fly - Gregory Polanco made a nice running catch against the right-center field wall to rob Cabrera of an extra base hit - and Victor Martinez made it 4-4 with an RBI-single.
The Tigers took the lead for good in the sixth on another leadoff home run - this time from Nick Castellanos - which made a winner out of Blaine Hardy (2 IP, 1 K), and Martinez’s bases loaded, two-run single an inning later gave Detroit some breathing room.
Farmer got off to a fine start, setting down the Pirates in order in the top of the first. The 23-year old Conyers native used a mid-90s fastball and an effective slider to get a harmless fly out and ground out before catching Russell Martin looking at strike three to end the inning.
Farmer pitched out of the first jam of his big league career in the top of the second. He walked Ike Davis and hit Starling Marte with a pitch to open the frame, but got strikeouts of Pedro Alvarez and Snider to escape.
The Tigers got Farmer his first, and what turned out to be only, lead in the bottom of the second. Marte dove to try and catch Castellanos’ sinking line drive in center field, but the ball skipped under his glove and rolled to the wall. That chased home Martinez, who had led off the inning with a single, and gave the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Pittsburgh answered in the next half inning, evening things up against Farmer when he allowed his first hit, a double to Josh Harrison with one out, and Martin followed two batters later with a double of his own. Farmer prevented further damage when he struck out Davis looking for the final out.
In Farmer’s final inning, he worked around a two-out single to Davis by getting Marte to fly out on his 83rd and final pitch of the night.
Farmer got the call up to Detroit due in large part to a strong first four and a half months of the minor league season. In 18 starts for Single-A West Michigan, he went 10-5 with a 2.60 ERA in 18 starts, then he pitched to a 3.00 ERA in a pair of starts for Double-AA Erie. The fifth-round selection of the 2014 draft struck out 127 batters and walked only 28 in 115 2/3 minor league innings.