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Nelson previews the D-backs vs. Braves series

Daniel Hudson followed Ian Kennedy to the D-backs in trades, and now, in his first full big league season, Hudson follows Kennedy in the rotation.

And on Friday night, Hudson looks to follow the lead of Kennedy in being the team's stopper as the D-backs and Braves open a three-game set at Turner Field.

After a six-game winning streak was snapped with a series loss to the Phillies, Arizona will lean on the 24-year-old right-hander to display the same kind of ace mentality that his running mate Kennedy impressed with in Spring Training.

"When I named Ian Kennedy my Opening Day starter, people were rolling their eyes around," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "His off-field stuff, his preparation and what he does in the training room and weight room, it couldn't get any better. It's transformed into results."

And to see those results, look no further than Hudson's locker, which stands next to Kennedy's inside the D-backs clubhouse.

If Kennedy is turning in one of the National League's most underrated performances from team aces, then Hudson is turning in one of the league's most underrated performances from No. 2 starters.

Hudson is 12-8 in his first full season as a starter with a 3.76 ERA in 25 starts and has recorded a pair of complete games. And while he has slowed a bit since the All-Star break, allowing an opponent's batting average of .288 post-break versus .263 before, Hudson is fresh off a two-run performance over eight innings Saturday against the Mets.

Hudson will oppose veteran Derek Lowe, who has struggled as of late with a 4-7 record and 6.30 ERA over his last 12 starts.

Lowe was tagged with the loss Saturday against the Cubs, allowing five earned runs in six innings, and lifetime, he has a 6-9 record and 4.14 ERA in 19 starts against the D-backs.

The 38-year-old also has struggled at Turner Field, with only two wins in 10 starts on the year.

The D-backs lead the NL West by three games and are the Braves' closest competition for the Wild Card.

D-backs: Johnson returns
Second baseman Kelly Johnson returned to the D-backs lineup Thursday and went 0-for-3 and struck out twice after sitting for three games.

Johnson is hitting .208, hasn't recorded a multihit game since July 31 and hasn't hit a home run since Aug. 7. He has 28 home runs on the season.

• The D-backs have four players with at least 20 doubles and 15 home runs: Justin Upton, Chris Young, Ryan Roberts and Johnson.

• Paul Goldschmidt continued his hot hitting Thursday night with an eighth-inning solo home run. The 23-year-old rookie has four home runs in his first 47 at-bats.

Braves: Constanza takes seat for first time
For the first time since his Major League debut on July 29, outfielder Jose Constanza was not in the Braves lineup in a 1-0 win over the Giants on Thursday.

The 27-year-old Constanza is hitting .385 with a .420 on-base percentage in his first 18 games. In place of him in the lineup was Jason Heyward.

"You don't want Jason sitting for three, four, five days at a time," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's got a little bit of history against Lincecum and we'll see if he can get out of this thing. He had a couple good at-bats [Wednesday]."

Heyward went 1-for-2 Thursday night.

• Gonzalez said that left-hander Mike Minor will start Tuesday against the Cubs in place of right-hander Tommy Hanson.

Hanson, placed on the disabled list Sunday retroactive to Aug. 7 and bothered by discomfort in his right shoulder, said the shoulder "feels great."

He will likely make a rehab start with Triple-A Gwinnett before returning. Comments