Cheap Seats

Now is the time for the Cardinals to make their move

Forced to play the likes of the first place Dodgers and Phillies while the Cubs were matched up against a seemingly endless string of cupcakes, the scheduling worm seems to have finally turned.

The Cardinals face a very favorable stretch over the next couple of weeks while the Cubs play some better competition. Translation, this is the Birds' opportunity to put some space between themselves and the wee bears.

The Cardinals face:

Aug. 7-9: Pittsburgh (45-63, .417) is last in the NL Central. And if that wasn't bad enough, the team was recently gutted of its starting shortstop, second baseman, two best outfielders and about half of its pitching staff. Albert Pujols is a .348 career hitter against the Pirates. And, while it is usually a disadvantage to be on the road, the fact that the games are to be played in Pittsburgh shouldn't stop The Mang. He's a .379 career with 21 homers in 65 games and 261 at bats at PNC Park.

Aug 10-12: Cincinnati (46-61, .430) The Reds are lucky to be in the same division as the Pirates because they lead the hapless Buckos by only a game and a half, especially since they have only won two on their last 16 games. The newest Red, Scott Rolen, will be plenty motivated to put on a good show. But Cincy's pitching is awful and the Cardinals' new look offense needs to take advantage.

Aug 14-16: San Diego (45-65, .409) is 7-3 in its last 10 games. But that doesn't change the fact that the Padres are a last place team that is going nowhere fast. Jake Peavy, who has been bitten by the injury bug this season anyway, is long gone. And yesterday the Padres traded starter Chad Gaudin to the Yankees, leaving their rotation in tatters. San Diego is bad at home. But they are godawful on the road with a .321 winning percentage (17-36.)

The Cardinals play the first place Dodgers in Los Angeles Aug. 17-19. But after that tough patch, they go to Petco Park to play the Padres again. Then, after that, they come home to face the sinking Astros and the terrible Nationals.

The Cubs, who have enjoyed beating up on the Nationals, Reds and Astros lately, spend the next week playing the red hot Rockies and the first place Phillies