DENVER -- A day off for Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is simply an invitation to work hard.
His efforts when not in the lineup on Thursday led to a big performance on Friday -- a first-inning triple and his 24th homer of the season, for two sixth-inning runs -- in a 4-3 victory over the Braves at Coors Field.
Told he wouldn't start Thursday night, for the second time this season, Arenado clocked in for early batting practice.
The practical goal of the session was to stay "inside the ball," or not let the barrel of his bat travel through the strike zone ahead of his hands. That habit leads to pulled ground balls. In his case, it led to a 45-at-bat home run drought that he ended by clobbering a 2-2 sinker from reliever Joel De La Cruz over the left-center-field wall.
A secondary goal in the batting cage: release frustration.
"It was a little bit of both," Arenado said. "But it was also, I want to figure this out. Am I going to sit back and keep playing bad? I want to figure out the reason why, so I could go home and say, 'I worked my hardest to figure it out.'"
The first-inning triple came off Braves starter Julio Teheran, who left in the fifth inning with a back injury. Teheran didn't give up a run, meaning he shut out the Rockies for 11 innings over consecutive starts.
Before the triple, Teheran picked off Charlie Blackmon at second base. Although Arenado was robbed of an RBI, the triple brought intrinsic satisfaction -- a feeling that lasted.
"It was a little momentum for me, made me feel really good," Arenado said. "A slider or curveball away, and I was able to drive it to right-center. That was huge for me because I feel like I would have rolled it over a couple days ago."
The homer came on De La Cruz's seventh pitch.
"He was throwing some tough pitches up there and I kept fouling them back," Arenado said.
Arenado's day off was more a rest mentally than physically.
"Sometimes it's good to hit the reset button," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "Physically, he's very durable, but everyone needs a mental break from time to time, especially when Nolan's real hard on himself. Once in a while it's good to catch your breath for a day."
The Rockies are being asked to push.
They're 45-51, seven games back in the National League Wild Card standings. But management has said it wants to see how the team as constructed performs coming out of the All-Star break before deciding if they'll become a seller or even a buyer at the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The club has responded by going 5-3 since the recess.
It took a standout seven-inning start from Jon Gray, homers by Arenado and Trevor Story (whose 24 long balls are tied with former Rockie Troy Tulowitzki's 2007 record for NL rookie shortstops) and seat-of-the-pants relief pitching from Carlos Estevez, who escaped loaded bases with one out in the ninth.
"Today was a great win," Arenado said. "Estevez did an unbelievable job getting out of that, but Jon Gray set the tone, and he's set the tone every start lately."