Ex-Met hit­ting coach thrives with­ith Astros A t

New York Post - - SPORTS - By KEVIN KER­NAN kevin.ker­nan@ny­post.com

Dave Hud­gens is wear­ing a big smile th­ese days. With good rea­son. The for­mer Mets hit­ting coach has done an awe­some job with the Astros.

The Yan­kees will be fac­ing a much more ex­plo­sive team in the ALCS that be­gins Fri­day night at Minute Maid Park in Hous­ton than they faced in the In­di­ans in the Di­vi­sion Se­ries.

“This team does so many things well,’’ Hud­gens told The Post af­ter the Astros knocked out the Red Sox in four games in the di­vi­sion se­ries. “Each hitter is not afraid to pass the ba­ton to the next hitter. They pre­pare bet­ter than any­body I’ve ever been around, and their game plan is right and they ex­e­cute it.’’

Get­ting fired by the Mets in late May 2014 turned out to be a bless­ing for Hud­gens, who also has been a cham­pi­onship man­ager in win­ter league baseball. His hit­ting game plan has been a suc­cess in Hous­ton.

“There are so many good young play­ers here, and they have done a great job of scouting and de­vel­op­ment and we are reap­ing those re­wards now,’’ Hud­gens said.

Hud­gens, 60, has a sim­ple phi­los­o­phy. Get a good pitch to hit and do dam­age so be pre­pared to see some big swings from the Astros’ deep lineup, start­ing with lead­off hitter Ge­orge Springer, who hit .412 against Bos­ton. Hud­gens’ hit­ters don’t get cheated.

“I don’t want my guys swing­ing at a pitch un­less they can do some dam­age,’’ Hud­gens said af­ter the Astros did all kinds of dam­age to Red Sox pitch­ing, in­clud­ing win­ning the de­ci­sive Game 4 by at­tack­ing Chris Sale and closer Craig Kim­brel in the fi­nal two in­nings, quite the star pitch­ing combo. “If you go in with that mind­set, you’re not go­ing to miss your pitch as of­ten.”

That has been true in the reg­u­lar sea­son and the post­sea­son.

The Astros hit .333 against the Red Sox with a .402 on-base per­cent­age, a .571 slug­ging and a .974 OPS. They blasted eight home runs against Bos­ton while strik­ing out only 22 times and scored 24 runs.

That fol­lowed the same pat­tern as the reg­u­lar sea­son, when their .282 av­er­age led all of baseball and the Astros’ 1,087 strike­outs were the fewest in the game. That speaks to the Astros’ ap­proach at the plate and their in­cred­i­ble tal­ent, led by prob­a­ble MVP Jose Al­tuve, who hit .533 in the ALDS. Yuli Gur­riel bat­ted .529.

Dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, the Astros were sec­ond in home runs with 238. Only the Yan­kees (241) hit more.

The Astros also led the ma­jors this sea­son in runs (896), hits (1,581), dou­bles (346), on-base per­cent­age (.346), slug­ging per­cent­age. (.478) and OPS (.823).

In ad­di­tion to big names such as Al­tuve and Car­los Cor­rea, play­ers such as Mar­win Gon­za­lez and young Alex Breg­man have im­proved tremen­dously. Breg­man got the game-ty­ing home run against Sale in that Game 4 win.

“He’s made great ad­just­ments,’’ Hud­gens said. “He’s such a great hitter. If the pitcher makes a mis­take, like Sale did on the changeup, he takes ad­van­tage of it.’’

Hud­gens’ hit­ters do dam­age.

AP; An­thony J. Causi

A GOOD SPOT: For­mer Mets hit­ting coach Dave Hud­gens (in­set) says the Astros have done a good job de­vel­op­ing young play­ers.

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