Rockies’ Arenado hopes to continue deep thoughts vs. Reds

DENVER — Nolan Arenado can only hope a return to his slugging form might have started Friday when he ended a lengthy home run drought.

In Colorado’s 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, the Rockies All-Star third baseman homered in the first inning. It was the first time Arenado trotted around the bases since May 5 at the New York Mets. The home run was Arenado’s ninth this season and came after he went 64 at-bats without a homer.

Arenado will attempt to homer in consecutive games Saturday for the third time this year when Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson (3-1, 4.74 ERA) opposes Tyler Mahle (3-6, 4.53).

In addition to his home run Friday, Arenado drew two walks — he’s on pace for 89 walks, well above his career-high 68 — and grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners on first and third in the fourth.

The Rockies (27-24), who lead the National League West by a half game, have struggled offensively. Arenado is hitting .320 with a .970 OPS and 27 RBIs but has been less productive than he would like because he’s the main threat in a lackluster lineup and has been treated as such by opposing pitchers.

“I think every year brings a different adversity to it, every year’s a different thing,” Arenado said. “This year, it’s not getting pitches to hit. It’s been tough, but it’s an adjustment I got to make. I need to continue to do what I’m doing. When I start feeling really like me, I believe I can hit some of these pitches out and start doing damage.”

Arenado, who ended a streak of 16 consecutive games without a home run, connected Friday on a 2-0 four-seam 95.2 mph fastball from Sal Romano after taking two four-seamers clocked at 95.5 mph. Arenado, who hit 42 homers with 130 RBIs in 2015, followed by seasons of 41-133 and 37-130, said pitchers seem more inclined to walk him this season.

“I’ve earned, I guess, that respect in a way,” Arenado said. “But at the same time, I’m also not feeling like me. I know I can do a better job of hitting mistakes, and I’m just missing them right now. It’s been a little frustrating. It’s been hard.

“I’ve never gone through this for the last three or four years, whatever. But it’s just an adjustment I’m going to have to make, and I’m going to learn from it and I’m going to get better from it.”

The Rockies have won six of 10 games started by Anderson, who received a no-decision Sunday at San Francisco when he allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings in Colorado’s 9-5 loss. Anderson is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA against the Reds, having held them to two runs in six innings at Cincinnati on May 19, 2017, in Colorado’s 12-6 win.

The Reds are 4-6 in games started by Mahle, 23, who is 0-2 with a 7.72 ERA in his past two starts.. He has never faced the Rockies. On Sunday against the Chicago Cubs, he gave up seven hits and four runs in six innings.

“One of my favorite guys I ever managed was Jordan Zimmermann,” said Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman, who was with Zimmermann in Washington. “This kid reminds me so much of Jordan Zimmermann. Jordan was this way as a young guy, extremely professional, quiet, hard worker, tough kid. Really good stuff.

“I’ve enjoyed watching him open up some games throwing 89-90 (mph), got in trouble and threw 95 (mph). Can add and subtract on his fastball. He’s not a finished product. He’s still working on his offspeed stuff — slider and changeup — but he’s a great competitor, really got a chance to be a good, solid major league pitcher.”