Can the Cardinals continue to hang in the NL Central?

Oh, to be a Cardinals fan for the past month or so! While the Brewers were busy pushing all in with the CC Sabathia trade and the Cubs countered with a trade for Rich Harden, the sons of St. Louis remained remarkably quiet in bolstering their roster.

And even though the Redbirds had enough wins to qualify for second place in the NL Central, their relative invisibility on the national discussion made it seem as if they were serving as nothing but a buffer between their neighbors to the north.

Sure, things after the All-Star break started off well with a sweep of the lowly Padres at Busch. But since this week began they've made a swift and sudden 180. If the Cardinals lose to the Brewers again tonight, they'll have been swept in a key series and have only two more games against Milwaukee (Aug. 26-27) to make up ground head-to-head. As it stands, the Cardinals are three games behind the Cubs (who'll they play nine more times) for first place and two behind the Brewers for the wild card.

Neither margins are insurmountable, of course, but the Cards' recent play has been enough to make our friends over at Cardinals Diaspora despondent enough to wave an overreactive white flag:

Game 1-0-3. Mark it. We’ve officially been eliminated from playoff contention ... The 2008 Cardinals exceeded all of my expectations. I firmly believed this to be a 70 win team with the potential for a .500 season if certain players had career-caliber years. Though the Birds may ultimately end up around the break even point, I don’t think you or I can say that we expected to be any where near the hunt approaching August.

While it's true that no one expected the Cardinals to be here — our own Jeff Passan wrote 'em off on April 3 — should such low expectations be enough for everyone to jump ship one week before the trading deadline? We'll obviously see if GM John Mozeliak can nail down a relief pitcher or some offensive help and if Adam Wainwright or Chris Carpenter can be effective upon returning, but here's what I want to know right now: Can the Cards make themselves more of a factor over the final two months of the season?

Cast your vote below.