He played for the Tigers from 2005-08.
Grilli retired all six batters he faced, punctuating his outing with an inning-ending strikeout against Brandon Inge. His father celebrated with a high-five and several pumps of his fists. His outburst was caught on TV, prompting his wife and a friend to call him.
Consider those bragging rights earned for the younger Grilli, who now has 13 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings. He combined with Eddie Guardado and Darren O'Day to retire 12 straight batters.
Overall, Rangers relievers retired 15 of the final 16 they faced.
"The bullpen did a great job tonight," manager Ron Washington said. "We came back after we spotted them three runs. We were able to put together some runs."
The Tigers took a 3-0 lead in the top of the third on an RBI double by Ramon Santiago and a two-run single by Dusty Ryan.
It didn't take long for the Rangers to return the favor. Texas scored four times in the bottom half of the frame.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Elvis Andrus doubled to drive home Andruw Jones. Ian Kinsler scored Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Andrus on a triple to tie the score, 3-3. Michael Young doubled in Kinsler, which gave the Rangers the lead, 4-3.
Andrus manufactured a run in the fourth. After hitting a one-out single off Tigers starter Lucas French, French attempted to pick Andrus off on a steal attempt. Andrus stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error on the play. He came around to score on a Kinsler sacrifice fly.
The stolen base was Andrus' 20th of the season. He became the first player under the age of 21 since Jones to do so.
Josh Hamilton drove home a run after an intentional walk to Jones in the fifth, and Andrus hit his fourth home run of the season to lead off the sixth.
Kinsler left the game with a strained left hamstring in that inning. He received treatment after the game and more will be known on Wednesday.
Doug Mathis received the emergency start in place of Vicente Padilla, who was scratched for the second consecutive start due to swine flu.
Mathis went four innings and allowed three earned runs on 79 pitches. The last time he allowed a run was on June 9, the last time he made a start. He had since posted 17 consecutive scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
"Obviously I wanted to go a little longer," Mathis said. "I thought I threw the ball very well but that one inning got away from me. When I came out of the game, I wanted us to either be in good shape or having the lead. That's what happened."
Tuesday's win pushed the Rangers to 14 games over .500, their best mark since ending the 2004 season 89-73. They have now won six successive games at home and are 11-2 over their past 13 games in Arlington.
Both teams were warned in the top of the seventh after a series of close pitches. Grilli threw a ball over Tigers outfielder Clete Thomas' head in the fifth, prompting Zach Miner to throw a ball behind Kinsler in the sixth.
When Guardado came inside on former teammate Adam Everett in the top of the frame, the warnings were issued.
"I didn't like the pitch to Thomas' head, actually behind Thomas' head," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "When you don't throw any wild pitches the rest of the time you're out there, and one goes behind his head after a loud foul, it just looks suspicious. I'm not saying he did or he didn't, but it did look suspicious. We were trying to send a message back."