Garret Anderson capped a three-run eighth inning with a two-run ground rule double and Ervin Santana pitched eight strong innings, leading the Angels to a 3-1 victory over the Tigers on Saturday night.
The win, coupled with Oakland's second straight one-run loss at Boston, extended the Angels' division lead to two games over the Athletics.
"Two days ago, we had just lost four straight and were tied with Oakland. Now we're back to a two-game lead," second baseman Adam Kennedy said. "But as much as you pay attention to what they're doing, you can't really worry about that."
The Tigers, 22 games out in the AL Central and 13 games under .500, haven't made it easy for the Angels during the four-game series. They won the first game 8-6 with three home runs, then lost the second in 12 innings despite hitting three more homers.
"Despite their record, they make it tough on you," Kennedy said. "Everybody in this league comes to play, especially now. They understand the stakes for us, so they're not laying down."
Santana (9-8) allowed a run and four hits, including Marcus Thames' third-inning home run, and tied a career high with seven strikeouts. He walked three and held Detroit to one hit over his final five innings before Francisco Rodriguez pitched a hitless ninth for his 37th save in 42 attempts.
"Ervin really stepped up and pitched to his potential at a key time, especially after a couple of tough starts," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had a good game plan coming in. His ball-strike ratio was terrific early and it got him some outs. He was very efficient in the early going and he finished strong."
Detroit's pitching staff retired 17 consecutive batters before Maicer Izturis reached in the eighth on a one-out a broken-bat single that bounced over the mound and left second baseman Placido Polanco with no chance to throw him out. Chris Spurling (3-3) walked Kennedy and was replaced by closer Fernando Rodney, who walked Chone Figgins on four pitches to load the bases.
Orlando Cabrera beat the relay to first from Polanco on a slowly hit fielder's choice grounder to shortstop John McDonald, allowing Izturis to score the tying run. Anderson followed with a ground rule double into the right field corner on a 2-1 pitch. It scored Kennedy and Cabrera, who stole second before the hit.
"That's not pressure right there," Anderson said. "The hitter's never under pressure. The pitcher's the one who's under pressure because he's the one who has to make the pitch to get me out. I just wanted to hit the ball hard and hopefully find a hole. Fortunately, I put the ball in a good spot."
Mark Woodyard, thrust into his first major league game after an early injury to starting pitcher Roman Colon, threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings and would have been credited with the victory had the Tigers hung on.
Colon, making his seventh career start and third with Detroit, faced only three batters and left with shoulder stiffness after striking out Anderson with his 14th pitch. Woodyard, given as much time as he needed to warm up, retired eight of the 10 batters he faced and gave up consecutive two-out singles in the second inning by Juan Rivera and Izturis.
The 26-year-old right-hander, one of three pitchers called up from Triple-A Toledo on Thursday night after the Mud Hens won the International League championship, was selected by Detroit in the fourth round of the June 2000 draft out of Bethune-Cookman.
Woodyard was 5-2 with a 3.84 ERA in 45 regular-season games for Toledo this year. The first batter he faced in the big leagues was AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero, who grounded out to shortstop on the second pitch with a runner on first.
"Mark's been pumped up ever since we got on the plane to Anaheim," Thames said. "He had the jitters at first, but after he got the first guy out, he settled down a little bit and he looked poised out there. He has a lot of confidence in himself. He was throwing the same way he was throwing down there and getting their guys to do the same thing."
Thames, also called up from Toledo along with Woodyard, Jason Grilli and Jason Karnuth, drove a 2-2 pitch over the fence in left-center leading off the third inning. It was his seventh homer for the Tigers this season and his first since May 24 at Yankee Stadium against Buddy Groom. Five of Thames' previous nine hits for the Tigers also were home runs.
The Tigers would have to go 15-0 the rest of the way to avoid their 12th straight losing season. Their longest winning streak is five games. ... Tigers RHP Jeremy Bonderman is scheduled to start Monday night at Kansas City after missing two starts because of a sore elbow. ... Polanco has not struck out in his last 73 plate appearances. He has fanned just 12 times in 300 at-bats this season -- the fewest by any Tigers player with at least 250 at-bats since 1953, when Johnny Pesky fanned 10 times in 308 at-bats.