Red Sox better than most thought, Samardzija an underrated ace

Lessons learned from the season's first week:

* The Red Sox are going to be better than most thought. Lefty Jon Lester is back on track. The always-shifting defense, which some times has third baseman Will Middlebrooks playing in short right field, has been an improvement. Shortstop Juan Iglesias, outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and catcher David Ross are important ingredients in the Red Sox's run prevention, and Red Sox fans aren't going to like when Stephen Drew comes back this week and Iglesias gets sent to the minors.

* Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija is an underrated ace. He struck out 13 against the Braves on Sunday. The former Notre Dame wide receiver had 12 after five innings, one more than Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood had after five innings during his 20-strikeout game in 1998. Samardzija has two strong starts and shows no signs of letting up. He's been dominant since the beginning of last July. He had a 2.58 ERA in his final 13 starts of last season. Samardzija says strikeouts are fine, but they run up a pitcher's pitch count and prevent him from staying in the game longer.

* The Phillies and Yankees, who played each other in the 2009 World Series, are going to fall out of contention quickly. The Phillies' Roy Halladay has issues and Cole Hamels hasn't pitched well. And, it's a strange season when the Phillies are looking for a boost with the return of Delmon Young in right field, even though he hasn't played that position in years. Still, despite reeling with injuries, the Yankees go into Detroit and beat ace Justin Verlander with a lineup that has Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, Jayson Nix and Kevin Youkilis.

* The Braves wanted more right-handed balance in their lineup, and it appears the Upton brothers, controversial in Ã…rizona and Tampa Bay, are going to give it them. Their back-to-back walkoff home runs beat the Cubs on Saturday, and they became the first brothers to hit home runs in the same inning since the Orioles' Cal and Bill Ripken did it in 1996.

* The quote of the week goes to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was asked what it is like to be the opponent for openers in Camden Yards and Kansas City. Gardenhire compared it to picking a homecoming opponent for a high school football team: "That's what you get with all this losing. Everybody asks to play your team on opening day.''