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The St. Louis Cardinals will have to take local roads to division crown

Unable to put together a hot streak that would allow them to take command of the National League Central Division, the Cardinals have no choice but to beat their division foes head-to-head if they want to bring home the championship and avoid a potential one and done wildcard playoff berth.

The Cardinals will play Central Division teams in 10 of their 13 games remaining in August, with only a three-game set in Philadelphia to break up the party. The Birds play three games at home against the Cincinnati Reds, have a three-game road trip Pittsburgh to play the Pirates and then they close out the month against the Cubs, playing four contests including a make-up game for a rain out.

Of their 26 games in September, 20 of them are against NL Central opposition including seven games against the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers, three home and three away. Besides their central foes, the Cardinals will play the Colorado Rockies without their two best offensive players, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, both out for the season with injuries, and the Arizona Diamonbacks.

The Birds still have 10 games against the Cincinnati Reds, with six of them to be played in St. Louis. The Redlegs have lost seven of their last 10 games to slip to two games under .500 and they're playing without slugger Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips.

The Diamondbacks, Phillies, Cubs and Rockies are the four worst teams in the National League with a combined record that is 77 games under the .500 mark. Simply put, if the Cardinals can't win a healthy percentage of the remaining games on their schedule, they don't deserve to win the division or go to the playoffs.

But that doesn't mean if they Cardinals make their layups that they're guaranteed a spot in in the post season.

Of Milwaukee's 38 games remaining, only 18 of them are against clubs with a winning record. And only two of those teams, the Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants, are more than four games over .500 at this point of the season.

The Brewers have six games left against the hapless Cubs and three against the San Diego Padres that the Cardinals came one swing of the bat from sweeping in a four-game series.

The Pirates schedule is similarly squishy with home and away series against the Cubs and an interleague match with the rebuilding Boston Red Sox as well as a four-game set against the last place Phillies. The Pirates, however, have seven tough games against the Atlanta Braves, three at home and four on the road. But the division crown is still within their grasp because of the numerous games they have against the Cardinals and Brewers.