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Wake up Cardinals. You're going to be late.

The timing of the major league All-Star Game has a way of throwing people off.People tend to refer to the time before the game as the first half of the season and the time after the game as the second half. But the reality is that the Midsummer Classic is actually played way after we've crossed the line into the second half of the 162-game schedule.

The Cardinals played 92 games before the All-Star Game. With three under their belt in the second half, that leaves a rapidly evaporating 66 to go.

The bottom line is: We're quickly getting past the point where we can flippantly say "Take it easy, it's still early" in effort to stop the latest conversation about how many games ahead the Redbirds would be if they didn't lead the majors in blown saves and rally-killing double plays.As native St. Louisan Yogi Berra said "It gets late early around here." And I am starting to worry that, like last season, we're going to make it to September without the Cardinals getting it into gear.

No more excuses about injuries. No more talk about contract distractions. The Cardinals players need to stop waiting for the cavalry to show up in the form of a huge trade and start executing up to their capabilities and pay grade.

It may be novel for the Pirates to be in first place beyond the month of April for the first time since we were all concerned about whether Bill Clinton inhaled. But the fact of the matter is that the Redbirds have played a division they seemed three weeks ago to be ready to leave in the dust back into the race with some serious underachieving.

The Birds should have won all three games in Cincinnati to start the second half and they botched their way to losing two out of three. They blew a save with a one-run lead and two outs in the bottom of the ninth in the first game and completely wasted a Jaime Garcia gem in the third contest by managing three hits and one run in seven plus innings against Homer Bailey.

The Cardinals have more than enough talent to win their division. Who in the central can outmatch their 3-4-5 hitters: Albert Pujols (.278 batting average, 20 homers and 55 RBI), Matt Holliday (.321/14/49) and Lance Berkman (.286/25/64)? Nobody. Who can match their top three starters: Chris Carpenter (5-7 with a 3.69 ERA), Jaime Garcia (9-4, 3.11) and Kyle Lohse (8-6, 3.32). Those guys have pitched even better than their numbers. The Birds rotation can go toe- to-toe with anybody in a three-game series.

On top of that, Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso have played great off the bench, Fernando Salas has done remarkably well to straighten out the mess when closer Ryan Franklin flamed out and no one else has played well enough to run away with things.

So, now is the time for the Cardinals to pull their head out of the sand and take over.

After their current series against the Mets, the Cardinals play three games at Pittsburgh where they need to show the Pirates who's boss. Then they come home to play four games against the Astros -- the worst team in baseball followed by a trio against the Cubs. If the Cardinals aren't back out front in 10 days, they have no one to blame but themselves.

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