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, he’s real smart, he pays attention, and he has a real short stroke, he can make in-game adjustments. If the pitcher makes a mistake, like Sale did on the changeup, he takes advantage of it.’’
Hudgens’ hitters do damage.
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