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Cards’ Pujols hits 700th home run, 4th player to reach mark

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Cards’ Pujols hits 700th home run, 4th player to reach mark

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Albert Pujols seemed like a long shot in early August to reach 700 home runs, still more than a dozen swings from the hallowed mark and his power stroke all but gone.

Or so it appeared.

Now showing the pop of his youth in the final weeks of his career, the 42-year-old slugger got there with two long shots.

Pujols hit his 700th home run, connecting for his second drive of the game and becoming the fourth player in major league history to make it to the milestone as the St. Louis Cardinals routed the Los Angeles Dodgers 11-0 Friday night.

Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

“Don’t get me wrong, I know where my places stand in this game, but since Day One when I made my debut, I was never about numbers, never about chasing numbers,” Pujols said. “It was always about winning championships and tried to get better in these games.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts gladly gushed about Pujols’ accomplishment.

“This is like the Mount Rushmore of sluggers, so to reach that 700-home run mark, it’s remarkable,” Roberts said.

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A man wearing a blue Dodgers shirt with Hideo Nomo’s No. 16 on the back snagged the 700th homer ball. He was whisked under the stands as he clutched a black glove containing the historic souvenir ball to his chest. Prolonged negotiations went on before the man was escorted out of Dodger Stadium flanked by 10 security personnel and into a waiting SUV.

“Souvenirs are for the fans,” Pujols said. “I don’t have any problem if they want to keep it. That’s why the fans come here, to have a special moment of history.”

Stirring up images of his dominant days as a three-time NL MVP, Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth.

A 37-year-old Los Angeles man, Cesar Soriano, snagged No. 699. He turned the ball over to security after being told he could meet Pujols.

It’s been a remarkable and resurgent run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Roberts marveled at the improbability in July of Pujols making history in late September.

“I wouldn’t doubt him, but the stars seem to kind of have to align for it to play out like this,” Roberts said. “I don’t think Albert even thought it was a possibility.”

Now, no one needs to wonder whether Pujols would’ve come back for a few extra swings next year had he finished this season at 699 or so.

Pujols took extra pleasure in making his mark at Dodger Stadium, where he said he regained his joy for the game while with the Dodgers last season.

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“It’s pretty special, especially with the Dodgers fans, to do it here,” Pujols said. “And, you get to see both sides, they get to enjoy this and to do it in a Cardinals uniform is really special.”

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first couple rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

“At first, I was upset … and then when the crowd reacted and seen all the smiles, it was a very special moment for MLB,” Bickford said. “Albert Pujols is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.”

Pujols jogged around the bases smiling all the way. After crossing the plate and pointing his fingers skyward, Pujols went over to greet fellow Dominican Republic and former Dodgers star Adrian Beltre. They high-fived through the protective netting.

Then he was off to the Cardinals dugout, getting hugs and congratulations every step of the way.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd — he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The crowd of 50,041 chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” The fans finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Later in the Cardinals clubhouse, his teammates “gave me a little shower, a little toast,” Pujols said.

Pujols’ 700th homer gave him a couple of other nice, round numbers, too — he has hit 500 home runs off right-handers and 200 off lefties.

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His achievement was celebrated beyond Chavez Ravine.

At Chase Field in Phoenix, the San Francisco Giants were meeting on the mound when the 700th homer was shown on the videoboard, prompting veteran third baseman Evan Longoria to applaud, along with the Diamondbacks’ crowd.

At Target Field in Minneapolis, Shohei Ohtani pitched the Los Angeles Angels to a win and then said through an interpreter: “I’m really glad he got to 700. … It was an honor to be a teammate of his. He’s raking this year, so it feels like he’s got a lot more left in the tank.”

Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez tweeted about his fellow star from the Dominican: “You are the man!!”

Pujols connected twice on the same night New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge remained on deck for home run history. He remained at 60 homers, just short of tying Roger Maris’ AL mark of 61 in 1961, in a win at Yankee Stadium.

Lars Nootbaar, Juan Yepez and Alec Burleson also homered for St. Louis.

Pujols struck out swinging in his first at-bat against Heaney and grounded out to short in the sixth. He was replaced in the eighth by Burleson, who added a pinch-hit homer.

José Quintana (6-6) got the victory. He scattered five hits over 6 2/3 innings and struck out six.

Cardinals outfielder Corey Dickerson pitched the ninth. With the bases loaded, he retired Trayce Thompson on a flyball to end the game.

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Heaney (3-3) was tagged in the most-lopsided loss this year for the NL West-leading Dodgers.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the career list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Batting .189 on July 4, Pujols started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

Pujols has enjoyed a productive season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

He has hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 — one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.

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TRAINER’S ROOM

Dodgers: All-Star RHP Tony Gonsolin (forearm) will throw two innings in a rehab assignment Tuesday for Triple-A Oklahoma City. … LHP David Price (wrist) will throw to live hitters again in a couple days.

HONORING ALBERT AND YADI

The Dodgers honored Cardinals teammates Pujols and catcher Yadier Molina, both of whom are retiring at season’s end.

The players were greeted by a standing ovation when they strode to home plate before the game. Their career highlights were shown on the stadium’s big screens.

Both players were presented with white golf bags before Pujols took the mic and thanked his former teammates and fans for treating him well during his lone season in LA last year.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: LHP Jordan Montgomery (8-5, 3.26 ERA) makes his second road start with the team since coming from the Yankees. He tossed a one-hit shutout in his other one against the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22 in a 1-0 victory.

Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw (9-3, 2.39) makes his 20th start of the season. He has 117 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings.

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AP freelance writer Jolene Latimer contributed to this report.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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