The Braves’ last homestand of the regular season begins Friday night, but it doesn’t look as if these will be the team’s final games of the year at SunTrust Park.
Leading the National League East by a season-high 7-1/2 games, the Braves enter the 10-game homestand closing in on their first division championship – and first playoff berth – since 2013.
The Braves are scheduled to play a three-game series against the Washington Nationals this weekend, followed next week by three games against the St. Louis Cardinals and four against the Philadelphia Phillies. After that, they will conclude the regular season with six road games against the New York Mets and Phillies. And then in October, barring an epic turn of events, playoff baseball will come to Cobb County.
With the biggest games potentially ahead, here’s a look at three metrics regarding SunTrust Park’s second season:
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1. CHECKING ATTENDANCE
The Braves are on track to exceed the 2.51 million fans drawn in SunTrust Park’s inaugural season last year. That might seem a given, considering the dramatic improvement in the team’s performance on the field. But 12 of the past 14 MLB teams to open new stadiums had attendance declines in their ballpark’s second season, giving back some of the customary bounce of the first season.
Through 71 home games, the Braves’ attendance – defined by MLB as tickets sold – has reached 2.24 million for the season. That’s an average of 31,589 per game, up about 3 percent from 30,691 at the same point last season.
Braves president and CEO Derek Schiller said recently that advance ticket sales ensure attendance for the full season will be higher than last year’s total. “We know we’re going to exceed attendance year over year … if you take into account all the tickets sold for games yet to be played,” he said.
The Braves expect large crowds for the two weekend series on the coming homestand despite competition from football. If the momentum of the just-completed 6-1 road trip continues, a division-clinching celebration could happen at SunTrust Park before the end of the homestand.
» If you go: Foods you can find inside SunTrust Park
2. TALLYING THE RECORD
One of the (many) surprises about the record the Braves have assembled this season is that they have fared significantly better on the road than at home.
The Braves are a middling 37-34 (.521) at SunTrust Park, compared with a sterling 45-30 (.600) on the road.
They have the National League’s best road record and MLB’s fourth best, but their home record is the NL’s eighth best and MLB’s 17th best.
Since the All-Star break, the Braves are 12-14 at home and 18-8 on the road.
Still, the number that matters most entering the homestand is 10 – the total number of Braves wins and Philadelphia losses required for the Braves to clinch the NL East title. The second-place Phillies lead the third-place Nationals by just one-half game in the division (going into Washington’s game Thursday against the Chicago Cubs); the Braves’ magic number to eliminate the Nationals is nine.
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3. COUNTING HOME RUNS
Early last season, home runs flew out of SunTrust Park in a way that briefly brought back memories of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which was so hitter-friendly that it earned the nickname The Launching Pad. But the new stadium’s early power surge diminished significantly as the 2017 season progressed, and this season SunTrust Park has not been a home-run haven.
In fact, the Braves have hit more home runs – and given up more home runs – on the road than at home.
In the 71 games at SunTrust Park this season, a total of 127 home runs (1.79 per game) have been hit – 70 by the Braves and 57 by the opponents. But in the Braves’ 75 road games, 174 home runs (2.32 per game) have been hit – 95 by the Braves and 79 by the opponents.
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> Vs. Washington Nationals: games at 7:35 p.m. Friday, 1:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:35 p.m. Sunday
> Vs. St. Louis Cardinals: games at 7:35 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 12:10 p.m. Wednesday
> Vs. Philadelphia Phillies: games at 7:35 p.m. Sept 20 and Sept. 21, 1:05 p.m. Sept 22 and 1:35 p.m. Sept 23