ST. LOUIS -- This weekend's Cardinals-Pirates series features a few key new faces.
After standing pat at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, two of the National League Central contenders made trades this week in an effort to improve their championship hopes.
The Pirates shook up their roster twice, adding 2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau on Saturday, just days after acquiring Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the Mets. Meanwhile, the Cardinals bolstered their bullpen Friday by dealing for veteran reliever John Axford.
"Every team does what it feels like it needs to do this time of year," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "Fortunately, we made an addition as well when we didn't know if anything was going to happen as well. I think getting too distracted by what other teams are doing is probably not something that is good for us at this point. We'll have some work to do to make sure we're prepared."
With a 7-1 win Saturday, the Pirates regained sole possession of the division, entering September with a one-game lead over the Redbirds. After Sunday's finale, only a three-game set next weekend in St. Louis remains between these teams.
"We felt this move gives us a better chance to not only play in October, but play deeper," Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington said of the Morneau deal.
After travel delays kept him from arriving in time for Friday's opener, Axford made his Cardinals debut Saturday, tossing a perfect seventh inning.
"I'm definitely looking forward to working with a new staff," Axford said Saturday afternoon. "You can talk to your own coaching staff and hitters and you can get a very good outlook on what you're doing. But sometimes when you have an opposing team who has been watching you for years and trying to figure you out, they may capture things that you didn't realize. That's going to be a great thing coming in here."
Pirates: New acquisitions bolster Pittsburgh offense
Newcomers Byrd and Morneau provide an immediate boost to the lineup heading into the final month of the season. Moreau joined the team tied for second with Byrd and Andrew McCutchen in RBIs with 74.
While Byrd extended his total to 75 with an RBI single Saturday, Moreau will have his chance Sunday, when he is expected to make his Pittsburgh debut.
"We were able to strengthen our lineup with an experienced, impactful bat," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the trades. "We were able to add guys who have shown strengthens to cover areas where we've had challenges."
Cardinals: Kelly set for Pittsburgh finale
Joe Kelly, the most consistent and successful St. Louis pitcher of the second half, is pegged to start Sunday's finale as the righty looks to halt a three-game skid that featured three forgettable performances from the club's starters.
The Cardinals are 8-1 with Kelly on the mound since he rejoined the rotation permanently in early July.
"I love when he goes out there and competes," said Cards second baseman Matt Carpenter. "He's aggressive and pitching with confidence. When you have a clubhouse that sees that, you go into the game knowing we're going to get a good start. That's where you want to be as a pitcher, and that's what he's got going."
• With Saturday's win, the Pirates clinched the season series, which could have postseason tiebreak implications.
• To make room for Morneau and right-hander Stolmy Pimentel on the active roster, right-hander Jared Hughes and outfielder Andrew Lambo were technically optioned to Double-A Altoona on Saturday, although both will be back on the big league roster Sunday, when the roster expands from 25 to 40.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.