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National sports briefs: Pujols prevails over Howard in tight race for NL MVP

Associated Press
NEW YORK ó Albert Pujols views MVP voting a little differently these days.
“You have to consider everything. You have to put all the numbers together,” the St. Louis star said after powering past Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard to win the award for the second time.
Pujols won despite the Cardinals finishing in fourth place, the lowest spot for an NL MVP winner since Andre Dawson and the Chicago Cubs wound up sixth in 1987.
Howard led the majors in home runs and RBIs for the World Series champs. The result surely will renew a debate that Pujols once raised himself: What qualifies as “most valuable?”
In 2006, a month after leading the Cardinals to the World Series crown, Pujols carped when Howard ó whose Phillies missed the playoffs ó captured the coveted award.
“I see it this way: Someone who doesn’t take his team to the playoffs doesn’t deserve to win the MVP,” Pujols said at that time.
Shortly thereafter, Pujols clarified his remarks and said Howard certainly was worthy of the award.
“I think the writers made the right choice in 2006,” Pujols reiterated Monday. “He did deserve it.”
Just as Pujols believed he earned it this year.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” he said.
Pujols got 18 of the 32 first-place votes and had 369 points. Howard drew 12 first-place votes and 308 points. Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun was third with 139 points, with Manny Ramirez fourth at 138. Houston’s Lance Berkman was fifth and CC Sabathia sixth. Brad Lidge drew the other two first-place votes and came in eighth.
n SAN FRANCISCO ó Reliever Jeremy Affeldt became the first of 171 free agents to agree to a contract, striking an $8 million, two-year deal with San Francisco.
n SAN DIEGO ó Padres third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder and is expected to be ready by the start of spring training.
n ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. ó The Tampa Bay Rays announced that single-game tickets will rise anywhere from $1 to $5, depending on location at Tropicana Field, where prices range from $10 to $210 for most home dates in 2009.n CHICAGO ó The Chicago White Sox claimed right-handed reliever Kelvin Jimenez off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.
n COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. ó Baseball’s legends and old-timers will play in a new Hall of Fame Classic, a creation deemed insufficient by the group opposed to the elimination of the annual exhibition between major league teams.
The inaugural Hall of Fame Classic will be held on June 21 ó Father’s Day and the first day of summer. It will replace the Hall of Fame game, discontinued this season after 68 years because of scheduling problems.
n NEW YORK ó Country singer Mindy McCready claims she broke off her relationship with Roger Clemens when the former baseball star wouldn’t marry her, according to an interview to be broadcast Monday by the syndicated show “Inside Edition.”
McCready, however, was quoted on the Web site of the New York Daily News on Monday as saying she didn’t want to marry Clemens.
n NEW YORK ó The Chicago Cubs will play the first exhibition games at the new Yankee Stadium, meeting New York on the night of April 3 and again the following day.
NBAOKLAHOMA CITY ó Luis Scola scored 23 points, Yao Ming added 19 points and 12 rebounds and the Houston Rockets made a second-half surge without injured Tracy McGrady to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-89.
McGrady left the game in the opening minute of the second half after aggravating his surgically repaired left knee, but the Rockets were still able to mount a 14-3 run powered by Scola and Yao.
Kevin Durant had 29 points to lead the Thunder. Forward Desmond Mason will miss about 10 days with a sprained right elbow.
n LOS ANGELES ó Roger Mason’s 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds remaining lifted San Antonio over Los Angeles 86-83.
Tim Duncan had 20 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Cuttino Mobley led the Clippers (1-9) with 18 points.
n SALT LAKE CITY ó Carlos Boozer had 21 points and 15 rebounds, Andrei Kirilenko added 19 points and two big blocks in the fourth quarter and Utah snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Phoenix 109-97.
C.J. Miles scored a season-high 21 points. Brevin Knight had six assists and 12 points.
Amare Stoudemire led Phoenix with 30 points and eight rebounds. Steve Nash had 14 points and eight assists, but Shaquille O’Neal finished with just nine points and one rebound. O’Neal had back-to-back shots blocked by Kirilenko during Phoenix’s fourth-quarter slump.
n Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett was suspended for one game, and O’Neal was fined $25,000 by the NBA for separate incidents over the weekend.
n OAKLAND, Calif. ó Golden State has signed Stephen Jackson to a three-year contract extension, a deal that takes him through the 2012-13 season.
HOCKEYUNIONDALE, N.Y. ó Roberto Luongo made 34 saves against the team that let him get away, but he couldn’t stop Frans Nielsen in a shootout as the New York Islanders beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-1.
n DETROIT ó Ty Conklin made 20 saves for his fifth career shutout, Jiri Hudler and Niklas Kronwall each had a goal and an assist and the Detroit Red Wings beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-0.
n NEW YORK ó Nikolai Zherdev scored the only goal in a shootout and Henrik Lundqvist denied all three Ottawa shooters, giving the New York Rangers a 2-1 victory over the Senators.
n TORONTO ó Michael Ryder, Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick scored, leading the Boston Bruins to a 3-2 victory over Toronto.
n NASHVILLE, Tenn. ó Devin Setoguchi had a power-play goal and an assist to help the San Jose Sharks beat the Nashville Predators 4-1.
GOLF
In another sign of fragile financial conditions, some PGA Tour events are trying to figure out transportation for players after learning over the weekend that Buick will not be providing courtesy cars to most tournaments next year.

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