NEW YORK -- It was still early in Tim Hudson's latest rehab start, on Tuesday, when he glanced at the scoreboard and saw the Braves beating the Mets, 4-0, in New York.

"I was thinking, 'All right, we're going to cruise through this one,' " Hudson said.

But the Braves did not cruise. Stumbling through an eight-run fourth inning, Derek Lowe lost the lead and the game, largely on ground balls that squirted through the infield.

"I know how that feels," Hudson said. "It stinks, because you come out of the game feeling like you've thrown the ball a heck of a lot better than what the line shows, and what the final score shows."

Hudson understands even more than he let on. Of the nine hits he allowed in 4 2/3 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday, eight were singles. But because only two of those runners came around to score, he could find plenty more positives in his latest start than Lowe could.

"My stuff feels good," said Hudson, who checked in on Wednesday for a brief stay with the Braves before continuing on to his next scheduled rehab start, on Sunday. "I feel like my stuff is as pretty close to game speed as I would want it to be. It's just at times, my location's kind of bad."

Hudson's fastball command, in particular, has vexed him, though he did sport an improved changeup and curveball in Tuesday's game. Recovering from surgery on his right elbow, Hudson would like to see some improvement in his next start -- if for no other reason than his probable competition.

If everything goes as planned, Hudson will square off against new White Sox starter Jake Peavy, who is also on a rehab assignment.

"That," manager Bobby Cox said, "would be super."

Most encouraging for Hudson is the fact that despite some rustiness on his pitches, his elbow has recovered well after each of his first two rehab starts. There is no more pain, meaning there are no more major obstacles standing between him and a return to the Major Leagues.

Assuming nothing changes between now and the end of the month, Hudson could make his season debut as early as Sept. 2, against the Marlins.

"I feel pretty close to being back, ready to go game speed," Hudson said. "I think every time out, it's getting a little bit better. I'm able to pitch deeper into games, and I feel like my body's responding really well to it."