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COL@HOU: Nicasio gives up one run over seven innings

The long, tough slog to the National League West title continues for Arizona and Colorado on Friday, when the two division rivals meet for the first time this season. The Rockies will be the third straight West opponent for the D-backs, and the two clubs will match young starters Juan Nicasio and Daniel Hudson against each other in Friday's series opener.

Colorado has lost each of its first two series and will be looking for a spark against Arizona, a team that took 13 out of 18 games against the Rockies last season. Colorado, in fact, went 9-9 against two different division rivals -- the Dodgers and Padres -- last season and finished with a combined record of 10-26 against the D-backs and Giants.

Arizona, meanwhile, demonstrated dominance of the division en route to winning its first NL West crown since 2007. The D-backs logged winning records against Los Angeles (10-8) and San Diego (11-7) but took a .500 mark against San Francisco (9-9). Arizona started this season by sweeping the Giants and playing a tight series against the Padres.

The Rockies have scored more than three runs just twice this season, and they managed to win both of those games. They'll welcome Nicasio back home Saturday, and he'll be making his first start at Coors Field since being struck by a line drive and suffering a fractured neck last August. Despite that memory, Nicasio has had plenty of good times at home.

The 25-year-old showed an intriguing performance split last year, when he logged a 4-1 record and a 1.98 ERA at Coors Field and an 0-3 record and a 7.04 mark in six starts everywhere else. Nicasio turned in an excellent road start in his season debut, when he logged seven innings and allowed just one earned run in a no-decision against the Astros.

"You see what he's got -- he's got everything," catcher Wilin Rosario said after the game. "Nothing has changed. It's like nothing happened before. I know that guy like my hand."

Arizona will counter with Hudson, who has seen more than 80 percent of his career starts turn into decisions. The right-hander went 16-12 and had just five no-decisions last season, and he also took home the league's Silver Slugger Award for pitchers. Hudson went 1-2 in three starts against Colorado last season and logged a 3.72 ERA against the Rockies.

In his first start of the season on April 7, Hudson had a solid outing, tossing 6 2/3 innings and giving up four runs on five hits for the win.

D-backs: Kubel in two spot
On Thursday, Jason Kubel became the fourth player to hit second for the D-backs in the team's first six games this season. He joined Chris Young, Aaron Hill and Gerardo Parra.

"He's one of our, I think, purest hitters," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Kubel. "I decided to put him up there, wanted to split the lefties up throughout the lineup. I wanted to give him an opportunity to get some more plate appearances. We can do some things with him."

Kubel responded by driving in the go-ahead run with a double in the sixth inning.


• Young is a career .238 hitter in April -- and a .240 hitter overall -- but he hasn't let his history get in the way of his early-season production. Arizona's center fielder has homered twice and driven in six runs in his first five games, providing a spark for the D-backs. He started fast last year too, when he hit seven of his 20 homers in the season's first month.

Rockies: Cuddyer settling in
Michael Cuddyer has hit safely in five of his first six games for the Rockies, and he's delivered multihit games in three of his first six starts. The former Twin has started at right field in each of his first six games, but he's also logged one inning as a replacement at first base. The versatile veteran played three positions in 2011 and five the season before.

Cuddyer, the ninth overall pick in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, played 11 seasons for Minnesota and hit .272 with 141 homers. He went to the All-Star Game last year for the first time and signed with Colorado over the winter.

Worth noting
• Todd Helton has started for the Rockies on Opening Day in 15 straight seasons, the longest active streak for any player on one team in the Major Leagues.

• Colorado scored 17 runs and notched 22 hits without hitting a home run Wednesday night, setting franchise records in both categories for games without a homer.

• Arizona's coaching staff can boast of five All-Stars, two former Most Valuable Players, five Silver Sluggers and two playoff MVP awards.

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