Willis allowed one hit while working into the seventh inning of Detroit’s 4-0 win over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night. It was the Tigers’ fourth straight win and snapped Texas’ seven-game winning streak.
Willis (1-0), making his second start since coming off the disabled list with an anxiety disorder, struck out five in 6 1-3 innings to win for the first time since Sept. 25, 2007. He allowed two baserunners in the first inning, then retired 17 straight.
“He was tremendous,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Hopefully we can build on that.”
“I appreciate it,” Willis said of the cheers. “Now that I feel healthy and strong, I think I can start building some trust out there.”
Willis’ last win came against the Chicago Cubs when he was still pitching for the Florida Marlins. He began Tuesday’s game with a 7.71 ERA but trimmed it to 3.27 by the time he walked off the mound for good.
The 2003 NL Rookie of the Year was acquired by Detroit from Florida in a blockbuster deal that also landed slugger Miguel Cabrera(notes). But Willis was a mess last season, with a 9.38 ERA in only 24 innings. He missed most of the season with a right knee injury and battled control problems when he was on the mound.
“I think he’s in the process of working himself back,” Leyland added. “We’re going to take our time with it and let it develop.”
“He threw the ball well,” Rangers infielde Ian Kinsler(notes) said of Willis. “You never want to downplay it when somebody does that. He threw the ball well after all he’s been through. He did a great job.”
Detroit scored once in each of the first three innings on sacrifice flies by Jeff Larish(notes) and Gerald Laird(notes) and a Placido Polanco(notes) single. The fourth came on Miguel Cabrera’s RBI double in the seventh.
The Tigers’ pitching staff picked up its sixth shutout a season after posting just two.
The loss was the ninth straight at Comerica Park for the Rangers, whom the Tigers swept April 10-12 in their first home series of the season. Detroit, which swept Oakland over the weekend, reached the 10-hit plateau for the fourth time in as many games.
The shutout loss was Texas’ first in Detroit since Aug. 30, 1999. … Rangers All-Star CF Josh Hamilton(notes) missed the game to rest the sore right groin muscle he irritated Sunday. He and manager Ron Washington said the ailment wasn’t serious. … Tigers OF Wilkin Ramirez, who shares the International League stolen bases lead (14), will make his major-league debut Wednesday as the designated hitter, manager Jim Leyland said. Ramirez was recalled from Triple-A Toledo early Tuesday to replace Magglio Ordonez(notes) (bereavement list). … Joyce Stearnes Thompson, daughter of Hall of Famer Norman “Turkey” Stearnes, sang the national anthem.