NOAH TRISTER,AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers are ready to welcome Alex Avila back from the disabled list.
Of course, their backup catcher is now hurt again — and so is their closer.
Catcher Gerald Laird left Wednesday night’s game in the fifth inning with left hamstring cramping, and the Tigers went on to lose 3-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals. Now Detroit must figure out whether Laird needs to go to the DL or not.
“We’re just trying to let cooler heads prevail right now and see what happens in the morning,” manager Jim Leyland said. “You’re not talking about an outfielder or an infielder, where you’ve got another outfielder or infielder. You don’t have another (backup) catcher, so there’s not much lenience there as far as what you have to do.”
Avila, the starting catcher, is expected back Thursday from a right hamstring strain. Laird started behind the plate Wednesday, with Bryan Holaday replacing him after he got hurt. The question is which of those two will be available along with Avila.
Detroit also announced Wednesday that closer Jose Valverde has a sprained right wrist. Trainer Kevin Rand says Valverde will use a wrist immobilizer for two or three days.
Jake Westbrook (6-6) pitched his first complete game in over two years, giving up only an unearned run for the Cardinals. He allowed five hits, struck out five and walked one. It was his 14th career complete game, but his first since May 16, 2010, when he was pitching for Cleveland at Baltimore.
The Cardinals took the lead in the sixth when Yadier Molina hit into a bases-loaded double play, breaking a 1-all tie. The Cardinals added an eighth-inning run on an error by Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
Rick Porcello (4-5) allowed two runs and 10 hits in seven innings.
“Today was definitely a good step in the right direction, and I want to keep that going,” Porcello said. “With this offense, if I can go out and throw seven innings and give up two runs, we’re going to win a lot of games. If I can keep doing what I did tonight, we’ll be OK.”
Carlos Beltran had two hits and two walks for St. Louis.
The Cardinals loaded the bases in the sixth on a double by Matt Holliday, a walk by Beltran and a single by Allen Craig. Detroit played its infield back for a double play up the middle, and that’s exactly what the Tigers got when Molina hit a groundball to short.
But after limiting the damage to only a run, Detroit managed only one more baserunner the rest of the game.
Westbrook hadn’t thrown more than seven innings in a game this year.
“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “Every time you go out there, you want to finish what you start.”
Laird, who has had problems with both hamstrings this year, left the game after tagging up and advancing from first to second on a deep flyout.
Austin Jackson had two hits for the Tigers and gave them a 1-0 lead with an RBI double in the third. That came after Laird hit a bloop single and went to second on an error by second baseman Daniel Descalso.
David Freese led off the fifth for St. Louis with a single, and after a single by Matt Adams, Descalso hit a sacrifice fly to left to tie the game. Adams advanced to second on the out.
One out later, Skip Schumaker hit a single to left. Adams tried to score from second but lost his balance a bit coming around third, and outfielder Quintin Berry’s perfect one-hop throw to the plate was in time.
The Tigers gifted St. Louis an insurance run in the eighth. Beltran drew a one-out walk against reliever Brayan Villarreal and went to second on a balk. With two outs, Molina hit a line drive that went off Peralta’s glove for an error.
NOTES: The Tigers optioned RHP Luke Putkonen to Triple-A Toledo to make room for RHP Jacob Turner, who will start Thursday. … St. Louis RHP Chris Carpenter (right shoulder) threw a bullpen session of about 50 pitches and could pitch to some of the Cardinals’ hitters later this week. … Detroit LHP Drew Smyly (blister on left middle finger) is scheduled to pitch three innings in a rehab start with Triple-A Toledo on Thursday night. … Turner makes his season debut for the Tigers on Thursday when he starts against St. Louis RHP Kyle Lohse (6-2).
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