Tigers' Damon ends homer drought with solo walkoff vs. Angels

DETROIT -- Johnny Damon finally went deep for the Detroit Tigers, and his first home run of the season couldn't have come at a better time.

Damon connected off reliever Scot Shields with one out in the ninth inning Saturday to give the Tigers a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

Damon finished with three hits and also made a sterling play on defense, throwing out his former Yankees teammate Hideki Matsui in the sixth to keep the scored tied at 2. Damon is not known for a strong arm, but his throw beat Matsui to the plate.

"I know, over the years, the arm strength definitely goes away some," Damon said. "But I always work on trying to grab the ball and getting rid of it as soon as possible ... to keep teams from running on me."

Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia didn't think Damon got rid of the ball quick enough to get Matsui. Scioscia even argued with plate umpire Gary Cederstrom, who told him that Tigers catcher Gerald Laird blocked Matsui's foot off the plate.

"That's about as well as Johnny Damon can throw a ball and he's still safe," Scioscia said.

The throw also surprised Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

"I wasn't looking for him to throw him out there. I didn't really expect that, but he did. That's a good thing," Leyland said. "But when I saw the hit, I thought the run would score. ... He obviously threw it as good as he could. He got rid of it quick and accurate."

The throw was the story of the game until Damon trumped it with his homer.

"Definitely would have wanted to get an extra base hit," Damon said, insisting he wasn't trying to hit one out. "Try to get in scoring position."

Shields (0-1) blamed his fastball on being too far inside.

"I got too much of the plate and he made me pay," said Shields, who also gave up a game-ending home run to Damon at Fenway Park on Aug. 26, 2002, in the 10th inning when Damon was with the Boston Red Sox.

"As soon as he hit it, I started walking off," Shields said.

Damon's home run made a winner of Ryan Perry (1-1), who retired the final two batters in the top of the ninth.

Brandon Inge's bases-loaded sacrifice fly gave Detroit a 1-0 lead in the first, but three errors by the Tigers allowed Los Angeles to pull even in the fourth.

After Howie Kendrick's one-out single, he advanced to second when Miguel Cabrera couldn't handle Jeremy Bonderman's pickoff attempt. Bobby Abreu then hit a liner to right that Ryan Raburn dropped while running toward the line. Kendrick stopped at third but came home when Raburn's throw got by the cutoff man, Cabrera.

Brandon Wood's RBI single gave the Angels a 2-1 lead in the fifth, but Cabrera made up for his mistakes on defense with his run-scoring single in the fifth that tied the game 2-2.

Bonderman was locked up in a nifty pitching battle with Scott Kazmir for most of the afternoon, allowing two runs -- only one earned -- on 10 hits over six innings. Kazmir also allowed two runs -- and one earned) on five hits over six innings.

Jackson's leadoff single was his sixth consecutive hit, after going 5 for 5 on Friday night. His streaked ended with a strikeout to end the second.

Note: Magglio Ordonez was Detroit's DH after leaving Friday night's game because of abdominal cramps on Friday night. "We got all kind of tests last night and he's fine," Leyland said. ... Los Angeles CF Torii Hunter didn't play because he was given a rest by Scioscia. ... After a Michigan law that bans smoking in most work places went into affect Saturday morning, Leyland refrained from smoking when he met with reporters. He has smoked at the ballpark throughout his career. ... Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won ice dancing silver medals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, threw out the first pitch.