Pavano was part of the story, but the other was Galarraga (5-8), who gave up a two-out triple to Grady Sizemore, then proceeded to walk both Victor Martinez and Choo in the third. That gave Travis Hafner a chance to drive in two with a single to left field just in front of a diving Ryan Raburn, giving the Indians a 3-2 lead.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland said Galarraga pitched well enough to win, but that sequence with two outs in the third was costly.
"He pitched the third inning there like a home run would win the ballgame," Leyland said. "If the guy hits a solo home run, who cares? [Galarraga] got afraid to give up a run rather than trying to get an out. When you get two quick outs, you have to go after whoever is up.
"He pitched to Sizemore like he was Babe Ruth. He pitched Martinez like Babe Ruth and Shoo like Babe Ruth. Then Hafner burned him. You can't do that," Leyland added.
With the loss, the Tigers' lead in the AL Central is 2 1/2 games over the White Sox, who beat the Twins, 8-7.
Miguel Cabrera made things interesting in the ninth with his 18th home run of the year, a two-run shot off closer Kerry Wood. But Wood retired Marcus Thames, Clete Thomas and Raburn to record his 12th save of the season.
Tigers catcher Gerald Laird said Pavano pitched extremely well, a line that included no walks.
"He's a professional. He's been around awhile and he knows that when he gets a lead it's important to throw strikes and keep us off balance," Laird said. "It was one of those nights when you have to tip your cap to him because he got some key double plays [one each in the first and third inning] and he made pitches when he had to."
Pavano "pounded the strike zone with strike one" all night, Leyland said. "He kept the ball away from us to his credit."
Pavano said the key to his win was having great command.
"I was able to locate my fastball and keep it down," he said. "I was aggressive and made my pitches. Any time you make one pitch and get two outs that's a pitchers' best friend."
Asdrubal Cabrera's seeing-eye single in the seventh gave Cleveland a 4-2 lead. The Indians also scored in the first when Cabrera and Sizemore led off with consecutive singles. Martinez then hit a sacrifice fly to center field which drove home Cabrera from third.
The Tigers answered in the second when Thomas singled and Raburn followed with a drive to deep left-center field that Sizemore couldn't come up with while running full speed into the fence. Raburn ended up on third with a triple. Brandon Inge drove Raburn in thee pitches later with a single to right to put Detroit up, 2-1.
Leyland said before the game that the move to platoon Thomas and Magglio Ordonez in right field, with Thomas starting against lefties, was a strategy that could continue depending on how successful Thomas was. He finished with two singles in the loss.
"We're hoping to catch lightning in a bottle a little bit with him," Leyland said about Thomas before the game. "He had a big hit [Wednesday] against Kansas City and can do some nice things for us."
The Tigers ran themselves out of a rally in the fourth with runners at the corners and one out. Raburn struck out with Thomas attempting to steal second. Thomas stopped a few feet from second base and Thames took off from third in an attempt to score. But the Indians tagged Thames out in a rundown to end the inning.