LEADOFF: Braves launch busy month at SunTrust Park tonight

Good morning. This is LEADOFF, the early buzz in Atlanta sports.

Beginning tonight, the Braves will play 18 of their next 21 games at SunTrust Park.

The stretch will balance out an early-season schedule that had the Braves on the road for 32 of their first 54 games.

The timing is good for a home-heavy month, with the peak summer attendance period just beginning.

The Braves have homestands of eight and 10 games this month, the first starting with tonight’s opener of a four-game series against Philadelphia.

After completing a 4-5 road trip Sunday, the Braves return to a home stadium where home runs and attendance are up from last year at Turner Field.

Fifty-five home runs have been hit in the first 22 games at SunTrust Park, an average of 2.5 home runs per game. That’s a 54-percent increase from the 1.62 home runs per game hit last season at Turner Field (130 in 80 games).

Thirty-four home runs at SunTrust Park have been hit by opponents, an average of 1.55 per game, while 21 have been hit by the Braves, an average of 0.95 per game. That discrepancy suggests the home team’s sub-par pitching also has contributed significantly to the long-ball surge. But home runs per game are up notably for both the Braves and the opponents compared with Turner Field’s final season, when in 80 games opponents averaged 0.97 homers per game and the Braves averaged 0.65.

The Braves’ home attendance — defined by MLB as tickets sold — is up 38 percent from this point last year, the largest increase by any MLB team this season.

The Braves have drawn an average of 30,109 fans per game at SunTrust Park, an increase of 8,230 per game from an average of 21,879 in last season’s first 22 games at Turner Field. This season, they have averaged 37,825 fans for Friday-Saturday-Sunday games and 24,767 for Monday-through-Thursday games.

Following the Phillies, the Mets come to SunTrust Park for a four-game series next weekend, including a split doubleheader Saturday. Then, after a three-game series at Washington early next week, the Braves will return to SunTrust to host the Marlins (June 16-18), Giants (June 19-22) and Brewers (June 23-25).

Click here for full story on how SunTrust Park is playing, drawing and operating.

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