BOSTON -- For as sterling as Shane Greene's first three starts with the Tigers were, the ensuing struggles have come to define his season.
On Sunday night, Greene stumbled again in a deflating 11-1 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Over 4 1/3 innings, the right-hander allowed five runs on a season-high 11 hits, including a three-run homer by David Ortiz that sparked Boston's scoring outburst.
The defeat raised Greene's overall ERA to 6.72. He has given up 39 earned runs over his last seven outings, none of which have lasted more than 5 2/3 innings, and he hasn't had a quality start since May 20.
Asked whether he could afford to keep Greene in the rotation, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was non-committal, noting only that the team has not yet reached a decision.
"I don't know if it's stuff-related. It's more location-based, I think," Ausmus said of Greene's issues. "And again, tighter situations with runners on base, they want to [throw] harder and harder. Sometimes the best thing is to back off a bit. I don't know if that's the case with Greeney. For whatever reason, the pitches started coming up [in the strike zone]."
Greene pitched solidly over the first four innings, limiting the Red Sox to one run and generally keeping his fastball down in the zone -- evidenced by his seven ground-ball outs. But the fifth proved to be his undoing, as the Sox broke out for four runs on five hits and chased him after 88 pitches.
"He just started leaving balls up, and they started taking advantage of it," catcher James McCann said. "Early on, he was down in the zone, making pitches. There in the inning where he got in trouble, stuff just kind of started leaking out over the middle of the plate and elevated. Good hitters take advantage of that, and that's what they did."
Greene, who hung an 0-1 slider that Ortiz launched past Fenway's expansive right field, gave up his 13th home run in 16 starts this year.
"I made a mistake to one of the best left-handed hitters in the game, and I paid for it," Greene said.
Although Greene's fastball sat around 90 mph for most of his night -- a noticeable drop from his season average of 93 mph, per Brooks Baseball -- the righty said the change was intentional and echoed his manager's concerns about sacrificing command for velocity.
"Going into this game, I thought in the past few starts I've been overthrowing a lot," Greene said. "So going into tonight, I told myself to take a couple gears down and just try to make my pitches."
But whether the problems are attributable to pitch location or the damage caused by left-handed hitters, who are batting .364 against Greene this season after going 6-for-12 off him on Sunday, the Tigers recognize that making the postseason will be a tall task unless their rotation can produce more consistent outings.
"[For] 140 years, they've been saying pitching and defense wins baseball games," Ausmus said. "When you're giving up runs, it's hard to win."
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.