DETROIT -- Ervin Santana knew he had to be patient as he recovered from an elbow injury that cost him the first six weeks of the season.
Friday, that patience paid off.
"Ervin answered a lot of questions with a resounding 'yes' tonight," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "He's been through a lot this year, so this was big for him."
Santana (1-2) picked up his first win since Sept. 22, after allowing 15 runs in his previous two outings. He improved to 4-0 against Detroit since the start of 2008 by allowing six hits and two walks in 8 2/3 innings, striking out seven.
"I wasn't worried, because I knew things weren't going to be perfect coming back from injury," he said. "I'm always happy to be out there, but today was even better than usual."
The game was scoreless after eight innings, but Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales started the ninth with singles off Fernando Rodney (0-1). Juan Rivera fouled off six pitches before poking a single to right through the drawn-in infield for the game's first run.
"I just wanted to get the ball up in the air and over the infield," Rivera said through an interpreter. "He was throwing me changeups and high fastballs, and I just kept fouling them off until I got one I could hit."
Magglio Ordonez hit an RBI single in the ninth, but Angels closer Brian Fuentes replaced Santana and got Curtis Granderson to hit a foul pop behind third that Chone Figgins caught before tumbling into the stands. It was Fuentes' 15th save in 18 tries.
"Everyone in the dugout was trying to suck that back into play," Scioscia said. "Luckily, Figgy got to it and made a great play."
Justin Verlander nearly matched him, throwing eight shutout innings one day after becoming the AL Pitcher of the Month for May. Verlander is 6-0 with a 1.12 ERA in his last eight starts.
Verlander, though, didn't come out for the ninth after throwing 119 pitches.
"He was tremendous tonight -- it's a shame he didn't get a win," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after the Tigers fell to 0-4 on their homestand. "It's also a shame we didn't get a win."
Santana and Verlander dominated the early innings, with the teams combining for just three singles in the first four innings.
Detroit had the first good scoring chance in the fifth, when Ordonez led off with a double and took third on Granderson's fly ball. Brandon Inge walked, but Jeff Larish grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Angels got two runners in the second when Bobby Abreu walked and Vladimir Guerrero's dribbler toward third base stopped on the foul line, but Abreu was picked off second by Verlander before Hunter's single, and Verlander escaped the inning by striking out Morales.
Detroit missed another chance in their half of the sixth when Gerald Laird was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Anderson's grounder to first.
"We're just not doing much with the bats," Leyland said. "I don't know. We just can't seem to put an inning together."
In the eighth, Kendrick led off with an infield single and took second when Inge's throw sailed past Larish at first for an error. Figgins moved Kendrick to third with a sacrifice bunt, Verlander intentionally walked Abreu, and the unusual move paid off when Guerrero hit into an inning-ending double play.
"In the past week, we've faced Verlander and (Roy) Halladay, and those might be the two best pitchers in baseball right now," Scioscia said. "We made him throw some pitches, but we didn't get much off him. He made the pitches he needed when we had him in a little trouble."
Cabrera didn't start after straining his hamstring in Thursday's loss to Boston. ... Leyland announced before the game that Jeremy Bonderman will make his first start of the season in Monday's doubleheader in Chicago. ... Santana is 4-1 with a 0.99 ERA in his last six road starts. ... After the game, the Angels said that they will option Rafael Rodriguez to Triple-A Salt Lake on Saturday and activate Kelvim Escobar, who is scheduled to start for the first time since 2007. The Angels will also need to make a move to open up a spot on their 40-man roster.