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Cardinals' Pujols wins NL MVP award

St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols is the National League Most Valuable Player for the second time in four years after outpolling Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard in balloting announced Monday by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Pujols collected 18 of 32 first-place votes and totaled 369 points from a panel consisting of two BBWAA members from each of the NL’s 16 cities. Howard finished with 12 first-place votes and 308 points.

Balloting occurred prior to postseason, which meant Howard’s performance in helping the Phillies win the World Series was not a factor. The award dates to 1931.

Voters ranked 10 players on their ballots, which awarded 14 points for a first-place vote. Players received nine points for a second-place vote, eight for a third-place vote, etc., down to one point for a 10th-place vote.

The American League winner will be announced Tuesday.

Pujols, 28, was the 2005 NL MVP and finished second in 2002, 2003 and 2006. He batted .357 with 37 homers and 116 RBIs in 148 games. He also led the NL with a .653 slugging percentage and finished second with a .462 on-base percentage despite playing much of the season with an injured right elbow.

That all-round performance proved sufficient to beat out Howard, the 2006 winner who turns 29 on Wednesday.

Howard led the majors with 48 homers and 146 RBIs while playing in all 162 games. He batted just .251 overall but powered the Phillies to their second straight NL East crown with a torrid September: 11 homers, 32 RBIs and a .352 average in 25 games.

Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun finished third with 138 points _ one more than Los Angeles outfielder Manny Ramirez. Houston first baseman Lance Berkman was fifth with 126 points.

In all, 27 players received votes.

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