The Cardinals started the season with a schedule heavy on National League Central Division competition and got off to a great start -- before fizzling as the temperature rose and stumbling their way through June and July.
To put it bluntly, they need to put their mediocre ways behind them post haste because the schedule is about to get a lot more serious. And the Birds could find themselves buried if they don't start to play up to their potential.
The second half starts tonight on the road against bitter rival Cincinnati and then the Cardinals head to Milwaukee for three. The Brewers have fallen on hard times this season. But they seem to always get up for a tilt with the Cardinals. And their players are trying to convince ownership not to pull the plug on the season with a fire sale. The Redbirds return home for a series against the Cubs. Then they have four games against a pretty tough Dodgers squad.
After series against the Cubs and Rockies, the heat really gets turned up as the Birds battle Milwaukee at home then the Giants, Phillies and Diamondbacks.
San Francisco and Arizona are battling for a playoff spot in the very competitive NL West while the Phillies are trying to reverse a bad season with the return of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley from a first half on the disabled list.
Then it's back to the NL Central to play the first place Pirates, the Astros and then Reds and Pirates again. And when that's wrapped up, the Cardinals play the best team in the NL so far, Washington.
There aren't many breaks in there. So the Birds don't have much margin for error. Now is the time to prove who they really are.