TORONTO — Atlanta Braves first-year general manager Alex Anthopoulos was not sure how well his new team would do this season.
“You know what, we didn’t know what to expect,” the former Toronto Blue Jays GM said before the opener of a two-game series at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday night.
He has a better idea now and so do the fans of the Blue Jays as they watched the Braves defeat their team 11-4 Tuesday and show why they are in first place in the National League East.
The short interleague set will end Wednesday afternoon with Atlanta starting right-hander Anibal Sanchez (3-0, 1.93 ERA) against Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ (8-3, 3.48).
“We knew there was a lot of talent here,” said Anthopoulos, who was the GM in Toronto from 2009-2015 before working for the Los Angeles Dodgers and then taking the job at Atlanta this past offseason. “There’s a ton of talent here. Those guys (the previous general managers in Atlanta) deserve all the credit.”
Anthopoulos said part of the plan was to see just how far players like of Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis could take this club.
“The plan was just to sit back and let these guys play,” Anthopoulos said. “Maybe add some things, bring some information. We had a game plan in the offseason on what we could be doing from a developmental standpoint, how we could potentially make guys better with information that we might provide to them, to the staff, to try to get the most out of their abilities.”
So far it has worked well with Atlanta improving its record to 43-29 while Toronto scuffles in the American League East at 33-39.
Sanchez will be making his eighth appearance of the season, and his seventh start, in the series finale. Last season, while with the Tigers, he was 0-1 with a 10.13 ERA in two starts against the Blue Jays. He is 3-4 with a 5.70 ERA in 12 career appearances (10 starts) against the Blue Jays. His last win against them was July 3, 2015, at Detroit, when he allowed four runs, three hits and three walks in 7 1/3 innings in the Tigers’ 8-6 victory.
Happ is 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA in eight career games, including seven starts, against Atlanta.
In June, he is 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts, which is not hurting his trade value as the July 31 deadline approaches. He is considered one of the better candidates among the Blue Jays to be traded, especially since he can be a free agent in the offseason.
Happ did not factor into the decision in his most recent start, June 13 at Tropicana Field, when the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Blue Jays 1-0.
He threw five scoreless innings, allowing one hit and three walks while striking out three.
“I do feel good out there for sure,” Happ said. “I feel confident, and that’s always a huge thing. I’ll try to keep it rolling, and we’ll try to bounce back.”
The loss on Tuesday ended Toronto’s seven-game winning streak at home. They are 6-3 in interleague games.
The Braves have won three games in a row and six of their past seven as they move to a season-high 14 games over .500. They are 22-16 on the road.
Before the series opener, the Blue Jays put right-handed pitcher Sam Gaviglio on paternity leave — his wife gave birth to a daughter Tuesday — and recalled infielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. from Triple-A Buffalo. Gurriel did not play on Tuesday.