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Monday Morning Manager: Boston strong

By April 29, 2013

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This was supposed to be the year that the AL East was turned on its head. Instead, it's looking like a carbon copy of the last decade or so.

It's the Boston Red Sox on top and the New York Yankees in second. So much for change, right? (And how terrible was Bobby Valentine, anyway?)

It's very unexpected for Boston, which is a solid 18-7 after a weekend sweep of the lowly Houston Astros. According to the team's PR department, it's the first time in team history they've been in first place for the season's first 29 games, and with a 2 1/2-game lead, that's certain to extend into May.

First-year manager John Farrell is well aware that it's still April.

"Coming out of spring training ... I don't know that you look at place in the standings as the goal," Farrell said to the Boston Herald. "You look at every area of the game and every area of your team, how you can best preparte it and make adjustments where needed. I think the fact that we have played good baseball certainly breeds the overall confidence of the group that's downstairs."

And the Yankees? No Derek Jeter, no Mark Teixeira, no Curtis Granderson -- no problem. Travis Hafner (seven homers) and Vernon Wells (six homers) have been reborn in pinstripes and Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda are both 3-1.

WHO'S HOT

David Ortiz, Red Sox: Veteran slugger is off to a fast start after missing the first couple weeks to injury. He's hitting .526 with two homers and 11 RBI in eight games.

Nelson Cruz, Rangers: Outfielder drove in 13 runs in a week and is hitting .310 with five homers and 18 RBI.

Matt Moore, Rays: So far, he's been the ace on a staff with the reigning AL Cy Young winner. He's 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA, and has given up just 13 hits in 32 innings, striking out 38.

WHO'S NOT

Justin Upton, Braves: While Justin Upton is living up to his billing, his big brother is having a tough start in the NL, hitting just .151 with three homers.

Adam LaRoche, Nationals: Washington's first baseman is hitting .135 after going 1 for 23 in the past week.

Kris Medlen, Braves: Atlanta couldn't lose with him on the mound last year. This year he's 1-3 and has lost two games in the past week.

TOP 5

1. Texas Rangers (16-9, last week No. 3)

2. Boston Red Sox (18-7, last week No. 5)

3. Atlanta Braves (15-9, last week No. 1)

4. New York Yankees (15-9, last week unranked)

5. Baltimore Orioles (15-10, last week unranked)

BOTTOM 5

26. Toronto Blue Jays (9-17, last week unranked)

27. Chicago Cubs (9-15, last week No. 27)

28. San Diego Padres (9=15, last week No. 28)

29. Houston Astros (7-18, last week No. 29)

30. Miami Marlins (6-19, last week No. 30)

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