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Cardinals are one move away from being set

With 67 games left to play, the St. Louis Cardinals are 63-34, five games better than the team with the next-best record in baseball, the Kansas City Royals.

They’re seven games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates, their closest competition in the National League Central Division.

If the Redbirds go 33-32 over their remaining 65 games,they’d have a 96-66 record and the Pirates would have to go 40-25 to catch them.

It stands to reason that if things stay the way they’ve been up to this point, the Pittsburghers chances of catching St. Louis range from slim to none.

That’s why the Pirates have been aggressive as we approach the trade deadline.

They’ve already added notorious Cardinals killer Aramis Ramirez (.308/37/144 over his career against St. Louis) to bolster their offense. And they’re busy beating the bushes for more help.

It will be interesting to see what the Pirates do to try to tip the balance of power in the division - and what the Cardinals might do to try to hold their edge.

Dating back to spring training, my biggest concern about the Birds was a lack of a big game pitcher beyond fragile ace Adam Wainwright.

Wainwright, who was ineffective in the post-season in 2014 because of elbow trouble, started the season off strong before blowing out his Achilles tendon, ending his year early.

The rotation has turned out to be the strength of the club in 2015. Michael Wacha (11-3 3.20) has seemingly turned the page on the shoulder injury that marred his previous season. Meanwhile, Carlos Martinez has made a monumental leap forward in his development. He beat former teammate Shelby Miller in an epic duel Saturday night to improve to 11-4 with a 2.34 ERA.

The Cardinals, with a surprise return of Jaime Garcia, have the luxury of sending out five starters capable of winning on any given day.

The performance of the starters, despite the lack a true ace who can take on opposing teams’ best hurlers in playoff games, makes it unlikely the Cardinals would pay the price in dollars or talent necessary to add a top starter through trade.

Instead the team made a nice move to add former Miami Marlins closer Steve Cishek to bolster an already strong St. Louis bullpen.

But I’d like to see them add a legitimate power bat to bolster the offense, the weakest part of the team.

If the Cardinals could add a guy like Milwaukee’s Adam Lind, I think they’d be set for a strong post-season run.

Lind, who is batting .285 with 16 homers and 58 RBIs, would give St. Louis a huge boost in their weakest area: offense.

The Cardinals haven’t got much production from first base this season. Mark Reynolds, an over-exposed, part-time player at this point of his career, is batting .229 with nine homers and 35 RBIs. He’s struck out 89 times in 258 at-bats. Xavier Scruggs was called up to help at first and hit .262 with no homers and seven batted in before being sent back to Class AAA Memphis. Fellow call-up Dan Johnson is batting .154 and prospect Stephen Piscotty, who has played only a handful of games at first base in the minors, has not yet manned first base in a big league game.

The Cardinals don’t need Babe Ruth to hit clean-up. They need a .275 plus hitter who can hit 25-30 home runs in a season to drive up production in the middle of the lineup.

If Lind were here to hit fourth, Jhonny Peralta could move down a slot to hit fifth, a rejuvenated Jason Heyward could hit sixth and Yadi Molina could bat seventh. The order would be more complete, from top to bottom, with either Matt Carpenter or Randal Grichuk batting eighth depending on the pitcher.

First base, not a top pitcher, should be the top priority for the Cardinals as we near the trade deadline. The Birds are a very good team as they sit. But if they could add a bat without sacrificing major league pieces, they could become a great team.

I wouldn’t bet against a Cardinals club with a legitimate first baseman -- and nothing else -- added to the mix.

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