"It's big for us," Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. "These guys have to pitch deep into a game to give us a chance to win, and you couldn't ask for a better job than John gave us."
The Angels took two of three from Detroit and have won five of their last six series, also beating the New York Yankees, Texas, Minnesota and Oakland.
Colon, the AL Cy Young Award winner, went on the 15-day disabled list on April 19 with an inflamed right shoulder.
"We need that starting pitching, that's a strength of ours," Scioscia said. "Our bullpen has been lights out. That part has to stay the same until our hitting gets its feet on the ground and gets our offense going."
A night after his teammates were held to a season-low three hits in a 5-2 loss, Lackey (3-1) gave up only a one-out single to Craig Monroe in the fifth. The right-hander struck out eight -- tying a season high -- and walked five, and Scot Shields finished the two-hitter.
"He pitched great. We only got one hit against him," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "That pretty much sums it up. But we were into it the whole game and competed out butts off. That's all you can ask for, so I have no complaints."
Scioscia was most impressed with the way Lackey came back in the count.
"He had a couple good innings, then his pitch count got a little elevated and we were hoping that he could get through six," Scioscia said. "He found a second wind and he got through seven and eight."
The Angels backed Lackey with solid defense after he gave up his fifth walk, to Brandon Inge starting the eighth. Second baseman Howie Kendrick, in his major league debut, started a double play, and Lackey struck out Placido Polanco.
"They were hitting some balls at some people," Lackey said. "Guys made some big plays for me. The double play in the eighth was huge for me, to get through that."
Mike Maroth (3-1) allowed four runs, nine hits and four walks in six-plus innings. He left after loading the bases with no outs in the seventh on consecutive singles by Chone Figgins and Orlando Cabrera, and a walk to Garret Anderson. Jason Grilli pitched out of the jam, getting Tim Salmon to hit a double-play grounder.
Maroth had his streak of 19 1/3 scoreless innings stopped in the third, when the Angels scored three runs. With two outs, Anderson lined a single to left field, scoring Cabrera, who had singled and taken second on an error by shortstop Carlos Guillen.
"This was one of the best games we've had pitched against us," Guillen said.
Lackey walked a career-high seven batters in his previous start against Oakland, getting a no-decision in a 5-3 loss. He's given up 12 walks in his last two starts.
"He was effectively wild," Maroth said. "It was one of those days where it was hard for the hitters to really get locked in because he was kind of in and out of the zone."
Guerrero followed with his fifth homer of the season, sending a 2-0 pitch from Maroth into the lower left-field seats to make it 3-0.
"It was a fastball in, pretty close to the corner. But a pitch to him on the corner is off the plate because he expands the zone," Maroth said. "You want to expand the zone because he can cover the whole plate and he'll swing at balls off the plate. So I'd take that one back if I could."
The Angels added a run in the fifth. Figgins led off with a double and stole third with Cabrera at the plate. Inge mishandled the throw from catcher Ivan Rodriguez, and Figgins scrambled over Inge and headed home.
Los Angeles had nine hits -- bettering the eight it had in splitting the first two games of the series.
- The Tigers totaled five runs in the three-game series. They lost two of three after losing two of their first 12 on the road.
- Maroth had won all three of his starts against the Angels last season. He was trying to become the first Tigers pitcher to start 4-0 since David Wells in 1993.
- Kendick was called up to replace the injured Maicer Izturis. He went 0-for-4.
- Angels OF Reggie Willits made his major league debut as a pinch runner in the eighth and remained in the game in center field.
- Anderson has multihit efforts in seven of his last 11 games.