Rockies Nation can exhale.
All is well with Nolan Arenado.
The third baseman who signed an eight-year, $260 million contract in the spring -- the second highest AAV in MLB history to the deal also signed this spring by Mike Trout with the Angels -- got off to a slow start. But after being given the game off on April 20, he returned to the lineup and the opposition has paid the price.
"Nolan is being Nolan right now, which is great," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Contributions have to come from everybody, but you need the core players to do their thing."
And Arenado certainly has done his thing.
The Rockies return home from a 4-3 road trip to Atlanta and Milwaukee to host the D-backs in a weekend series at Coors Field. It kicks off a nine-game NL West homestand that includes visits from the Giants and Padres. What's more the Rockies are 8-3 since Arenado's day off.
More than that, the Rockies, after opening the season by losing 12 of 15 games, including being swept by the Dodgers (0-3) and Braves (0-2) in their first homestand of the season, open the series against the D-backs having won 12 of their last 17 games. They have won four of their last six series, and split series at San Diego (two games) and Milwaukee (four games).
That has allowed them to regroup and return to being a factor in the NL West, where they are just a half-game back of the D-backs since April 14. It has allowed them to cut three games off their NL West deficit, pulling within 4 1/2 games of NL West-leading Los Angeles, three games back of third-place San Diego and 3 1/2 behind the second-place D-backs.
Now they get a homestand that can help them make a bigger move within the division.
"It is pretty big when you play division rivals," said Arenado. "Every game is big. You have to win series. It's time for us to go home and take care of our homefield advantage better than we have been."
And a big part of that will rest on the shoulders of Arenado, the physical and emotional inspiration on the Rockies.
He has given every indication in recent days that he has recovered from the early struggles, and is back to being one of the most impactful players in the game -- in the field, at the plate and in the clubhouse.
It's been a good run for Arenado. But he isn't satisfied, which is a big part of why he is as good as he is.
"I always believe I can get better," he said. "I am pretty fortunate that I feel like I do. Earlier in the season I wasn't feeling good at all. I am happy to feel better now, able to drive the ball."
He has been a catalyst to a revived Rockies offense.
But there is more than a revitalized offense that has been critical to the Rockies resurgence.
"We are playing really good baseball right now," said Arenado. "I credit the pitchers with doing a good job. They have done an even better job (the last two weeks)."
The Rockies have won 12 of their last 17 games, and the primary four in the rotation has gone 8-3 -- Jon Gray (3-0), German Marquez (2-1), Antonio Senzatela (2-1) and Kyle Freeland (1-1).
Now, if they can kick start Tyler Anderson, who has a 11.34 ERA, and has worked just 7 2/3 innings since coming off the injured list. He gets a chance to turn his struggles around in Friday's series opener against the D-backs.