ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Detroit manager Jim Leyland watched Justin Verlander throw 125 pitches over five innings before pulling him with the lead. The bullpen did the rest, and the Tigers' ace finally got his first victory in four starts since signing a long-term contract.
"It felt like we were fighting an uphill battle all night long, even though we had the lead," Leyland said Thursday night after the Tigers beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-4 to salvage a split of their four-game series.
"With Justin struggling the way he was, it felt like we were the ones who were behind. But he showed me something. He hung in there, the bullpen did great, and we snuck out of here with a win we wanted to get."
Verlander (1-1) allowed four runs, six hits and four walks while striking out four. The two-time All-Star agreed to a five-year, $80 million deal in February after winning a career-high 19 games and leading the AL in strikeouts last season. But he hasn't pitched particularly well at Angel Stadium -- giving up 15 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings over three starts.
"I'm really tickled to death that we got him through it, and I'm glad he won the game because he deserves it," Leyland said. "The horse that he's been for us, he deserved to get that win -- maybe not on tonight's performance, but because of what he's done for us since he's been here."
Carlos Guillen drove in two runs for the Tigers, but the three-time All-Star left in the fifth with a strained left hamstring after he tried to score from second on Scott Sizemore's single.
Guillen pulled up between third and home and was gently tagged out by catcher Mike Napoli to end the inning. Following the game, the Tigers said they will place Guillen on the 15-day disabled list and call up outfielder Brennan Boesch from Triple-A Toledo to make his major league debut Friday night at Texas.
"It hurts because he's swinging the bat really well," Leyland said. "That's your worst nightmare, when a guy's swinging the bat like that. But you've got to move on. We'll play another kid. We'll have three rookies in there."
With the bases loaded in the Angels' eighth, Ryan Perry threw a called third strike past Erick Aybar to end the threat.
"This was one of the first times I've thrown four or five sliders in a row," said Perry, who had three strikeouts in the inning. "You don't really see that too often, but it was really working for me tonight."
Jose Valverde, the fifth Detroit pitcher, closed it out with a hitless ninth for his fifth save in six chances. Bobby Abreu drew a leadoff walk, but Torii Hunter then grounded into a double play.
Tigers relievers have tossed 15 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
Angels regular designated hitter Hideki Matsui made his second start in left field in place of Juan Rivera, who was 0 for 10 against Verlander. Last year's World Series MVP had a home run and single in five at-bats, and has a chance to get his 1,000th major league hit against his former Yankees teammates while they are in Anaheim for a three-game series this weekend. Matsui is four shy.
Abreu doubled in the first and singled his next time up to reach 3,500 total bases. He doubled again in the seventh but was stranded at third when Matsui grounded out against Phil Coke with the Angels down by a run.
The Tigers scored in each of the first three innings and built a 5-2 lead against Joe Saunders (1-3), pulled with two outs in the third after retiring eight of his 16 batters and allowing six hits. The first two runs came on an RBI double by Magglio Ordonez and a run-scoring single by Guillen.
"I'm always surprised when [manager] Mike [Scioscia] comes and gets me," Saunders said. "I never want to come out of a game. He thought otherwise. He's the manager. He makes the decisions. If I'm struggling like that, I always want to stay in there and battle and try to keep it close and give my guys a chance to win the game."
The Angels responded in the bottom of the first with a two-run single by Kendry Morales, but Detroit regained the lead on Adam Everett's sacrifice fly -- the first run the Tigers scored in the second inning during their first 16 games.
Miguel Cabrera singled home another run in the third, and Guillen followed with an RBI groundout that delivered Ordonez with the fifth run -- the 1,000th he has scored in the big leagues.
On the night Hunter was presented with his ninth consecutive Gold Glove, he was in the lineup as the DH for the first time this season. The AL record for most Gold Gloves in a row by an outfielder is 10, by Ken Griffey Jr. and Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline. ... Verlander needed 36 pitches to get out of the first, striking out Brandon Wood after the Angels loaded the bases for the second time in the inning.