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story.lead_photo.caption Despite some struggles, the Cardinals are still in a good position to make a run at the postseason. Photo by Associated Press / News Tribune.

One is almost inexplicably still in the baseball postseason hunt. The other is quite explicable.

Despite playing some ugly baseball for much of the season, the Cardinals entered play Saturday just 11/2 games out of the National League Central Division lead and only one game out of the second wild-card spot.

And just 3 games from being at the bottom of the division. It's quite the logjam. Somebody is a 10-game winning streak away from taking control.

Why not the Cardinals?

Well, the longest winning streak they've put together this season is five games and they did that multiple times early in the season. And that was when they were at full strength with key bullpen piece Jordan Hicks and Marcell Ozuna, their best hitter this season. Hicks is done likely into the 2020 season, but Ozuna could return by late this month after suffering multiple fractures to his fingers.

The Cardinals could make up for Ozuna's loss of Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter start to hit like most people think they can. The problem is, the season is already 31/2 months old and they haven't.

But for argument sake, let's say they do. Now, it's time to fix the pitching, if there's still time.

Miles Mikolas looked like a solid No. 1 starter last year. He hasn't in 2019, going just 5-8 with a 4.34 ERA. Michael Wacha looks like he's on the downside, with a 5.54 ERA while walking an average of more than four batters per nine innings.

The Cardinals were touting their young starting pitching — Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty — going into the season. Hudson has been strong, Flaherty a little up and down. If they both get going, it would be a needed boost for any playoff aspirations.

In ranking the National League hierarchy, the Dodgers are No. 1 and you have to look pretty hard to figure out who's No. 2. I guess Atlanta? But you don't have to be No. 1 or No. 2 in the league to win it. You just have to get to the playoffs and get hot.

Again, why not the Cardinals?

Shifting to the west side of the state, the Royals are slogging along on what appears to be another 100-loss season.

Most Royals fans knew the season was going to be bad. I mean, they brought back Lucas Duda near the end of spring training. That should have set off all the alarm bells you needed.

But they're not bad because of Duda. They're bad because they think Duda can help them.

In 85 at-bats, he's hitting .165 with a .255 on base percentage with 25 strikeouts. Duda is striking out in nearly 30 percent of his at-bats.

The Royals brought back Duda after he was cut in spring training by the Twins. Last year, he hit .244 with 13 home runs with Kansas City before being sent to the Braves late last August for cash.

So they knew what Duda was. And if the Royals think they're going to get anything for him in a potential deal this season, they're sadly mistaken.

But he's not the biggest head-scratcher when it comes to free-agent signings. Let's fondly remember Chris Owings, who signed a one-year, $3-million deal with the Royals after leaving the Diamondbacks.

Somehow, Owings got 135 at-bats in 40 games this season before being released in late May. He hit .133 with a .193 on-base percentage, drawing eight walks with 55 strikeouts. Owings struck out on almost 41 percent of his at-bats.

Owings, still cashing checks from the Royals, is currently playing in Triple-A for the Red Sox.

I'm not bashing Duda and Owings as people. If someone offers me $3 million to play baseball, I'd gladly take it. They are not the reasons a triple-digit loss season is on the horizon. But the organization needs to stop signing veterans with the idea of flipping them at the trade deadline for younger pieces with potential. That money can be spent elsewhere, like adding scouts to find your own younger pieces.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore has said Kansas City can be a playoff contender perhaps as soon as the 2021 season. As long as he's correct, and all the evidence sure looks like that is highly optimistic, it can't get here soon enough.

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