Cheap Seats

The point of no return

The good news is that the Cardinals have the second-easiest schedule in the National League for the second half of the 2010 season, based on opponents win-loss records.

The bad news is that the Reds are the only team with a less challenging path to the post season.

The Redbirds don't get any breaks after the break. They start off with a four-game set against the 49-39 Dodgers before taking on the struggling -- but dangerous -- Phillies. Then they go to Wrigley Field for a three-game set againt the Cubs and follow that up with a trip to New York to play the surging Mets.

Cincinnati takes on the Rockies at home -- away from the dreaded humidor -- and then the Reds host the Nationals who very well could be without Adam Dunn at any minute. Then Cincy travels to Houston to take on the hapless 'Stros and goes back home to host Milwaukee. The Brewers also could be a very different team by the time they take on the Reds. Both Prince Fielder -- who agent Scott Boras last week frighteningly compared to Mark Teixeira with the $180-million contract -- and Corey Hart are said to be on the trading block.

Things get easier toward the end of July when the Birds play the Pirates for three before hosting the Astros. Then they travel to Florida to play the Marlins for a set before going to Cincinnati for a showdown.

The trick is to make it through the next couple of weeks. After that, not only does the St. Louis schedule become heavy on Pirates, Brewers and Cubs. But the Cardinals ought to have several of their injured players -- including Ryan Ludwick and possibly Brad Penny -- back by then.

Meanwhile, the Reds, schedule takes a turn for the better -- at least from a St. Louis perspective -- in the middle August. That's when they have to make a 12-game western road trip to Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco.