The All-Star break is four weeks away.

The stretch between now and then could easily define the 2013 season for the Reds. As of today, the local team (42-28) stands 2.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals (44-25).

The challenges offered the next 28 days could not be more starkly different for the two NL Central rivals.

The Cardinals play 24 games, 12 at home and 12 on the road. They play only six against teams with winning records, three at home against the Texas Rangers and three on the road against the Oakland A’s.

Over the same four weeks, the Reds play 26 games, only 11 at home. Starting with the Pirates tomorrow, the Reds play 16 straight games against teams with winning records – four against Pittsburgh at GABP, then on the road for three vs. first-place Arizona, two against first-place Oakland, three against second-place Texas, and back home for four against the second-place San Francisco Giants (remember how it went the last time the Reds played the Giants in GABP?).

After those 16 games, the Reds face the Seattle Mariners for three games then three more against the Brewers. In the final series before the All-Star break, the Reds head south for a four-game series against first-place Hotlanta.

It should go without saying that anything could happen. The Reds could get white-hot and the Cardinals’ young pitching could begin to show its age.

That said, it’s not hard to imagine the Reds going 12-14 during the next four weeks, although they’d have to improve their record against winning teams to do it. If the Cardinals go 16-8, as we settle in to watch the All Star Game at the Mets’ Citi Field, the Reds would be 7.5 games out of first place.