ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Matt Palmer wears his wedding ring under his glove when he pitches. If not for his wife Michelle, he probably would be working as a landscaper.
Thursday night the 30-year-old rookie right-hander pitched into the seventh inning to earn his first major league victory, leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 10-5 win over the Detroit Tigers. Torii Hunter hit a go-ahead home run, and the Halos survived another shaky outing by the bullpen."A couple of years ago I was stuck in Double-A and I was throwing well, but I was never getting a shot," Palmer said. "I thought I'd retire and go into horticulture, which was my major. But my wife said, 'No, stick with it. I feel that this is going to be your year.' I got to Triple-A and did very well. The big leagues came after that, and everything just kind of rolled from there."Palmer said he was giving the game ball to Michelle, who has shared his triumphs and travails in baseball since 2002 after the Giants selected him in the 31st round of that year's draft."I'm happy for my family and happy for myself that I kept pushing," the Memphis, Tenn., native said. "I've had opportunities off the field, but I love baseball and I love the opportunity to throw, and I've got the desire to play. So as long as I have that desire, I'm going to keep playing. Everybody says I'm 30, but I don't feel it."Palmer (1-0) threw 100 pitches in six-plus innings in his fourth big league start. He was charged with five runs -- four earned -- and six hits, walking three and striking out one."When you haven't seen the guy, I think the pitcher always has the advantage," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.After giving up a leadoff homer to Brandon Inge in the second, Palmer allowed two more singles in the inning before retiring his next 12 batters."I think it was just a matter of me calming down a little bit," Palmer said. "I had the sinker going, but I just didn't execute my pitch early in the count. But in the third inning, I started getting on top of the ball and throwing more strikes early. And I think that's what really helped me out."Palmer, who made his first three big league starts last season for San Francisco, was the only pitcher the Angels had at Triple-A Salt Lake with major league experience to start the finale of this three-game series.The two-time defending AL West champions have gone through a 2 1/2 week stretch in which their already depleted pitching staff was hurt even further because of the death of rookie Nick Adenhart and injuries to Dustin Moseley and Darren Oliver.The Tigers loaded the bases with none out in the seventh. Palmer walked his last two batters after a two-base throwing error by third baseman Chone Figgins on Josh Anderson's slow-hit grounder. Rookie Daniel Davidson came on to face Curtis Granderson and walked in a run, cutting the Angels' lead to 6-3.Two more runs scored on a single by Placido Polanco off Jason Bulger, who then retired Magglio Ordonez on a foul pop and got Miguel Cabrera to ground into an inning-ending double play.The Angels broke the game open with four runs in the eighth against reliever Eddie Bonine, who was pitching for the first time in 10 days.Edwin Jackson (1-1) gave up six runs -- three earned -- and eight hits in five-plus innings after pitching 7 2-3 scoreless innings in Saturday's victory over Seattle. The right-hander squandered a 2-0 lead in the fourth by walking Gary Matthews Jr. and No. 9 hitter Jeff Mathis with the bases loaded."It was probably just a loss of rhythm," Jackson said. "That inning could have been worse. But even with the two bases-loaded walks, that's all they got that inning. So it was just a matter of trying to do damage control."
RHP Rick Porcello, Friday night's scheduled starter for the Tigers, flew to Kansas City ahead of the team because his teammates won't get in until the early morning hours. "It's kind of mind-boggling to me that we didn't play an afternoon game today," Leyland said. "I just can't buy that. That makes no sense at all to have any major league get in at 6, 7 o'clock in the morning to play a game that same night."