Back in April, I broke down the Cardinals schedule for the season to see where they faced strings of tough opponents, long road trips, etc. Little did we know the 2015 Cardinals - at least in the first half - would play John Wick to the rest of the league's Throngs of Russian Gangsters.
A good example of the Cardinals dominance in the first half was the month of May, which looked to be a tough stretch. They were slated to play 23 games against teams projected to be above .500, with only six against teams below .500. It turned out to be even tougher, with only three games against teams who (as of now) are below .500. And in fact, it was the Cardinals worst full month of the first half, yet they still went 18-11, a .611 winning percentage.
Despite playing in a division with three of the top five teams in the National League, the Cardinals put up a 25-13 record within the Central. In fact, when you win at a .629 clip overall, most of the splits look good. They were just 8-9 against the AL, but that's always tough when you don't have a dedicated Special Batter on the roster. The Cardinals were also just 9-12 vs. left-handed starters. Feel free to employ that in a narrative about continued vulnerability to left-handed pitchers or about small sample size, depending on your preference.
Here's what the rest of the season looks like:
July (the rest of it)
12 Home; 2 Away
Opponents Above/Below .500: 4/10
It's been a rough start to July, going 5-8 before the All-Star break. But the rest of the month looks very favorable, both in terms of opponents and home/road splits. The Cards will play 14 of their first 16 games after the break in the friendly (if sweltering) confines of Busch Stadium, where they are 31-11 thus far this season.
12 Home; 16 Away
Opponents Above/Below .500: 10/18
Overall, the matchups in August look pretty favorable. The Cardinals have one series against the Pirates (in St. Louis) and a West Coast road trip which could be grueling, what with having to stay off Twitter to avoid spoilers from your favorite shows. But that trip only routes through the weaker (non-Dodger) parts of the Western Division, and they also get series against the lowly Reds and Brewers.
15 Home; 13 Away
Opponents Above/Below .500: 14/14
September is a gauntlet. If their big lead is going to erode, this is the month it is most likely to happen. After finishing up a series against the Nationals (which actually begins at the end of August), the Cardinals will play the Cubs and Pirates 12 times in the month of September. If all three teams are still battling, the playoffs will essentially begin in September.
Three Against the Braves in Atlanta
If the Cardinals haven't clinched their playoff spot in September, they will need to hope all their Atlanta Devil Magic wasn't used up on that rather fortuitous infield-fly call a few years back. Meanwhile, the Pirates and Cubs will be dealing with the punching bag Reds and Brewers, respectively.
The real battle for the Cardinals is shaping up to be the Pirates, who sit only 2.5 games back despite the Redbirds winning at a near-historic pace. Despite the sour taste of back-to-back extra inning losses to end the first half, the Cards and Buccos split 5-5 before the All-Star Break. As for the second half? They will meet nine times, with six games in St. Louis and just three in Pittsburgh.