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Braves pounded by Cardinals 12-3

ATLANTA - The Mark Teixeira trade watch is on in full. The Braves' season still has more than two months to go, but in reality it is already over.

Manager Bobby Cox asked before Monday night's embarrassing 12-3 loss to St. Louis what time the non-waiver trade deadline was on Thursday. Needless to say, general manager Frank Wren already knew.

Don't expect Teixeira to be around for the series finale against the Cardinals. The deadline is at 4 p.m. Thursday, with the first baseman most likely headed to Arizona, the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"The reality of the way things have gone recently and the number of injuries we're battling paints a pretty clear picture of what we should do," Wren said.

With the Braves in need of rebuilding, they can't afford to not get something for Teixeira, who becomes a free agent after the season. Other veteran players are also on the block.

"I think we're in a position of great strength," Wren said. "We have the best player and some of the best assets out there that are wanted. There is a lot of competition for them."

Atlanta's spring hopes of contending in the National League East are long gone and the series opener against the Cardinals at Turner Field showed just how far the injury-riddled Braves have slipped.

Charlie Morton, who the Braves had planned to have pitching in the minors, gave up a two-run homer to Joe Mather in the second inning and four runs in the third. By the time he left with two outs in the fourth, it was 8-0.

The rookie right-hander is 2-4 with a 7.26 ERA after a promising first few starts. The only reason he wasn't greeted by more boos as he left the mound was that St. Louis fans made up a hefty part of the announced crowd of 28,705.

Meanwhile, a makeshift Braves lineup that had Mark Kotsay batting cleanup in the absence of Chipper Jones and Brian McCann was held in check by St. Louis starter Braden Looper, who improved to 10-8 with seven solid innings.

The Braves blew big leads while losing the last two games in Philadelphia 10-9 and 12-10. But this was as bad or worse.

St. Louis came in 12-29 all-time at Turner Field. But most of the losses came when the Braves were running their streak of consecutive division titles in 14.

That seems like a very long time ago. The Braves are 49-56 and a distant fourth in the NL East.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, are 59-49 and trying to catch the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee in the NL Central.

Mather and Ryan Ludwick each had three hits for the Cardinals, who had lost six of their previous seven games. Albert Pujols had three RBIs.

Teixeira, Omar Infante, filling in for Jones at third base, and Yunel Escobar each had two hits for the Braves. Clint Sammons, called up from AAA with McCann out, hit into two doubleplays while going 1-for-4.

Both of Teixeira's hits were doubles and he drove in his team-leading 78th run. The switch-hitter is batting .283 and is tied with McCann for the team high with 20 homers.