July is an important month in baseball. It represents the beginning of the season’s second half. The Independence Day holiday usually features great series, especially when the Fourth falls on or near a weekend. July features the close of interleague play, the All Star Game and all its festivities, and the trade deadline. Only October can boast being a more important month on the Major League Baseball calendar.
The Cards figure to have as busy a July as ever. With the uncertainty surrounding the team after the Adam Wainwright injury and the absence of a contract extension for Albert Pujols, Cardinal Nation will be holding its collective breath as the All Star honors are bestowed and the trade deadline looms. But aside from all the pomp and circumstance—and possibly drama—don’t forget there are still games to be played…important games, actually.
Total Games: 26, plus the All Star Game in Phoenix, Arizona
Home Games: 14
Away Games: 12
Vs. NL Central Teams: 16
Vs. Teams with a 2010 Winning Record: 9
Vs. Teams with a 2010 Losing Record: 17
15th – 17th @ CIN: This is the first series after the All Star Break. The teams will be rested, the rotations will be reset, and the unofficial second half will kick off at Great American Ballpark. By this point, we should have a pretty good idea of where each team in the division belongs. If things are tight between the Cardinals and Reds (or the Cards and anyone else, or the Reds and anyone else) this series will be a tone-setter.
29th-31st vs. CHC: Come on…it’s July, it’s hot, it’s the weekend, and it’s the Cubs. Not much more to say. Grab your favorite beverage but try not to get in a fight.
Key to a Hot July
Seems redundant, eh? Seriously, the key for the Cards to have a good July is two-fold: utilize the rest afforded them by the All Star Break in the middle of the month, and take care of business against their NL Central counterparts. The Brewers are the only division foe the Cards won’t face in July, but they face the Reds in two different series. The Cards played well against all the Central teams but the Astros in 2010. But this is a different Central division, so who knows what will happen. The non-division July opponents (TB, AZ, NYM) are not good. Beat those guys, beat the Pirates, try to win series against the Reds, Astros, and Cubs, and July can be a resounding success. Make John Mozeliak need to be a buyer on the 31st.
At the end of July
If the Cardinals have 14+ wins…they may be putting themselves in position to make some noise in the divisional race during the second half. If they approach 20 July wins, we definitely have a race on our hands.
If the Cardinals are .500…they may be flirting with danger. The July schedule isn’t exactly a cakewalk, but having a ho-hum month could quickly evolve into a ho-hum or worse year. Phrases like “it’s early” and “small sample-size” no longer apply.
If the Cardinals are below .500…hold on to your hats, folks. If the Cards are out of the race by the end of July, don’t think for a second this team will be immune to personnel changes. And I’m talking BIG names. Not Pujols big…but maybe Franklin, Schumaker, and/or Carpenter big.