ANAHEIM, Calif. — Scott Kazmir left the game with a six-run cushion, then took a seat in front of the clubhouse television and watched helplessly as that lead kept shrinking.
Kazmir was finally able to exhale once Fernando Rodney got the final out, and the Angels hung on for a 6-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night.
“It was definitely nerve-racking, that's for sure,” Kazmir said. “But at the same time, those guys are streaky hitters. They've got quite a few veterans, especially their 3-4-5 hitters, and those guys can swing it. So you knew they weren't going to go down without a fight. But when Rodney came in and you saw his first two pitches, you knew he was on.”
Howie Kendrick drove in three runs and Hideki Matsui added a two-run double, helping the three-time defending AL West champs win their fifth straight game and climb over the .500 mark for the first time since their opening-night victory over Minnesota.
Kazmir (1-1) was charged with two runs and six hits over 5 2-3 innings and struck out seven without issuing a walk. Jason Bulger replaced him with two on in the sixth and a 6-0 lead, but Brandon Inge greeted him with a two-run double.
Scot Shields started the seventh, throwing 26 pitches and walking three of his five batters.
“When you're facing a team like Detroit, knowing how they can swing the bat, you just can't walk that many guys,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We opened the door for them to get right back in the ballgame. There are some things we definitely need to clean up.”
Shields, who missed most of last season after undergoing surgery on his left knee, has allowed six earned runs, five hits and seven walks in just 3 1-3 innings.
“What we're seeing in Scot is nothing different than what we've seen at times before. But it's not related to his knee or missing any time last year,” Scioscia said. “He just has a high-maintenance delivery that has a lot of deception in it. Right now it's obvious that he's a little out of sync. So Scot's going to have to work through this. When you look at the big picture, we're definitely going to need Scot Shields effective.”
Matt Palmer followed Shields out of the bullpen to face Miguel Cabrera, who hit a three-run double off the wall in right-center to slice the margin to 6-5. Before that hit, the Tigers were 7 for 49 with runners in scoring position on this road trip.
Kevin Jepsen pitched a scoreless eighth, retiring Johnny Damon on a borderline called third strike at the knees with the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. Rodney followed with a scoreless ninth for his fifth save in five chances while Brian Fuentes has been on the disabled list.
“I was awful happy with the way we played those nine innings and stayed after it,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We had some good at-bats. We came up a little bit short, but that's baseball.”
Scioscia said before the game that Fuentes will be activated on Wednesday. But catcher Jeff Mathis was placed on the DL because of a broken right wrist — one day after he attempted to block a pitch in the dirt from Jepsen with his throwing hand in the eighth inning of a 2-0 win.
Mathis is expected to be out six to eight weeks.
“It's tough right now. Jeff was playing the best baseball he's played in his career, and certainly is a major factor in our turnaround because of how well he's caught back there,” Scioscia said. “Obviously, he's going to miss some time, so we're going to have to go out and fill those shoes. It's a blow to our club, but it's a position where we have some depth.”
Tigers starter Rick Porcello (1-1) gave up six runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings, striking out five. The 21-year-old right-hander also issued two walks, threw two wild pitches and hit a batter with a pitch.
Matsui made it 6-0 in the fifth with his two-run double. During the rally, Bobby Abreu stole second base to become the sixth player in big league history with at least 350 steals and 250 home runs. The others who accomplished the feat were Joe Morgan, Rickey Henderson, Bobby Bonds, Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio.
“I thought I had decent stuff tonight, to be honest, and I had better command of all my pitches. It was just a couple of pitches that came back and bit me hard and ended up costing me a lot of runs,” Porcello said.
NOTES: Leyland, who managed the Colorado Rockies in 1999, was stunned by the death of 48-year-old Rockies president Keli McGregor on Tuesday. “My brother called me this morning and I couldn't believe it,” Leyland said. “He's got four kids. That's just a crying shame.” ... After the game, the Angels optioned RHP Francisco Rodriguez to Triple-A Salt Lake to make roster room for Fuentes.