"I thought I'd retire, go into landscaping," Palmer said, having gone six-plus innings with the promise of more to come from manager Mike Scioscia. "My wife said, 'No. Stick with it.'
"I'm happy tonight for my family and myself. I hope we can keep carrying it over."
Palmer's first win in the big time came in his fourth Major League start, having gone to the post three times last year with the Giants, losing two decisions.
Signed by the Angels as a Minor League free agent after a strong showing in the Venezuelan Winter League, Palmer had two starts for Salt Lake when the call came to join the merry-go-round that has become Scioscia's rotation in Disneyland.
"Great effort by Matt," Scioscia said, adding that Palmer will get another start when the Angels hit the road next week. "He really trusted his stuff, the action on the baseball. It wasn't a fluke. He did what he's capable of doing tonight.
"He's got terrific movement on the ball that a lot of guys would love to have."
Like Palmer, Jason Bulger gave his team exactly what it needed: outs when it mattered as Torii Hunter unloaded his sixth homer and started a rally with a single to give the Angels the series, two games to one, in front of 38,543 at Angel Stadium.
Maicer Izturis, Bobby Abreu, Kendry Morales and Gary Matthews Jr. joined Hunter with two hits each in a 14-hit assault. Catcher Jeff Mathis had two walks to go with a hit, scoring twice, and put down the right fingers for Palmer, Bulger and Justin Speier.
"When you haven't seen the guy," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, referring to Palmer, "I think the pitcher always has the advantage. In these situations, I've found over the years that normally either you knock the [stuffing] out of the guy, or he pitches a two-hitter."
Palmer went six innings, yielding five runs (four earned) on six hits and three walks with one strikeout.
Bulger delivered perhaps the three biggest outs of the game in the seventh after a two-run single by Placido Polanco had brought the Tigers back to within a run at 6-5.
Using his mid-90s heat and a big curveball, Bulger worked out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam by retiring two of the game's most dangerous hitters.
Magglio Ordonez popped up and Miguel Cabrera hit into a double play, Chone Figgins -- whose throwing error started the inning -- tagging third and going to first to finish it off.
"It was great to see Jason Bulger, who has had some tough outings, settle in and do a good job," Scioscia said. "That was as important as anything that happened tonight, Bulg getting those two innings and holding the lead."
The Angels scored four times, all with two outs, in the bottom of the seventh, after Bulger's escape.
Matthews singled and Howard Kendrick's double moved him to third. After Mathis walked, Figgins dragged a bunt that produced two runs when Cabrera was charged with a throwing error.
Izturis' RBI single ended the night for Eddie Bonine, and Abreu greeted Brandon Lyon with an RBI single.
Palmer yielded a first-inning run on Cabrera's RBI single, and Brandon Inge's solo homer had the Tigers in front, 2-0, in the second. But the Angels tied it against Edwin Jackson (1-1) in the fourth on consecutive singles by Hunter, Morales and Juan Rivera and bases-loaded walks by Matthews and Mathis.
With one out in the fifth, Hunter, in the designated hitter spot after feeling ill earlier in the day, drove a ball over the wall in right-center for his 800th career RBI.
"To get 800 [RBIs], for me, is awesome -- I didn't think I would do that," Hunter said. "I was a leadoff hitter coming into the big leagues, a skinny guy."
After Curtis Granderson's single had two on with two out in the second inning, Palmer retired Polanco on a fly ball. It was the start of a run of 11 consecutive outs for the 30-year-old Memphis native.
Palmer felt he'd reached a turning point earlier when he induced Carlos Guillen to pound a sinker to shortstop Izturis for the start of a double play that took him out of a first-and-third predicament in the first.
"I felt that was the breaking point for me," Palmer said. "When the guy hit the home run in the second, that was a 3-2 count and I wasn't going to walk him. That home run didn't bother me. I knew I had good stuff going into the second inning and I could ride through it."
Leading, 3-2, after Hunter's homer, the Angels gave Palmer some breathing room in the sixth.
After an infield single by Matthews and an error on Kendrick's grounder by shortstop Adam Everett, Mathis' sharp grounder -- ruled a single -- was backhanded by Inge at third base. His throw skipped past Cabrera at first for an error, allowing both Matthews and Kendrick to score. When Abreu beat out the third infield hit of the inning with two outs, Mathis scored.
It was left to Bulger and Speier to preserve it for Matt Palmer, who owed it all to his spouse.