DETROIT — The national anthem was about to begin Wednesday night when Angels reliever Billy Buckner was told to get loose because he would be starting against the Tigers in place of Tommy Hanson, who was scratched during warmups because of right forearm tightness.
"It was tough, something I'd never done before," Buckner said. "It all happened so quick."
When Buckner gave up solo home runs to Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera in the first inning, it looked like it would be a rough night for the Angels.
BOX SCORE: Angels 7, Detroit 4
But Mike Trout (third inning) and Erick Aybar (sixth) hit two-run homers, Trout keyed a three-run seventh with an RBI double, and five relievers combined to allow one unearned run in six innings of a surprising 7-4 victory in Comerica Park.
The Angels improved to 5-0 against the American League Central-leading Tigers this season and have outscored them, 43-16, in those games.
"They're manhandling us," said Hunter, the Detroit right fielder. "They're throwing us around like rag dolls."
Buckner allowed three runs and seven hits in three innings before yielding to Dane De La Rosa, who struck out Hunter with the bases loaded on a 98-mph fastball to end the fourth and induced a double-play grounder in a scoreless fifth.
Scott Downs got four outs in the sixth and seventh, and Michael Kohn, with a runner on third and two out in the seventh, took a wicked Cabrera line drive off his left buttocks but recovered in time to throw out Cabrera at first.
"I'm happy it hit me in the meaty part instead of square in the back," Kohn said. "I would have went down."
Kevin Jepsen allowed an unearned run in the eighth, and closer Ernesto Frieri rebounded from Sunday's meltdown against Pittsburgh to strike out two of four batters in a scoreless ninth for his 18th save.
"For Buckner to have to get loose in a hurry and for our bullpen to respond the way it did was huge," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's a big offense over there. Billy did the best he could to get us going, and the bullpen gave us six strong innings. Dane De La Rosa was huge."
Hanson will undergo tests Thursday, but he appears headed for the disabled list. With an off-day Monday, the Angels could skip Hanson's spot and, if Hanson's injury isn't serious, bring him back on July 6 against Boston.
If the injury is more serious, the Angels could leave Buckner in the rotation or move Garrett Richards from the bullpen back to the rotation.
Peter Bourjos' bruised left thumb was still too swollen and sore to start Wednesday night, "but it's not any worse than it was Tuesday, it just stayed the same," the center fielder said. Bourjos hopes to play Thursday. … Second baseman Howie Kendrick, who started the team's first 77 games, did not play Wednesday night. Kendrick was sore after fouling a pitch off his foot Tuesday, and with a day game Thursday, Scioscia thought it was a good opportunity to give Kendrick, who is hitting .321, his first night off.