Nestor Cortes knows he hasn’t been himself lately, but the left-hander believes he has identified the root of his recent struggles.
After carrying a 1.50 ERA through the first week of June, Cortes has pitched to a 5.68 ERA in his last four starts. That includes anotherin which the Astros tagged him for three runs in five innings.
“The biggest hurdle right now is commanding my pitches,” Cortes told The Post on Monday. “Maybe the first 12 starts, my command is pretty much there every time. And now, I’ve struggled a little bit more with my command.
“But it’s not a certain pitch that I think has gotten worse since then. It’s just about putting the pitch to places where I think I can be successful.”
On paper, Cortes’ command hasn’t changed much. Over his last four starts, he has a walk rate of 6.1 percent, identical to the figure he posted across his first 10 appearances.
For Cortes, then, the command issues are less so a matter of allowing free passes, but rather missing his spots.
“Then, you give up hits that you don’t want to in certain situations and it’s a little harder to navigate through your lineups when all of your stuff is not there,” Cortes said.
That cause and effect has manifested itself via the long ball. Cortes has given up six home runs in his last four starts — two more than he allowed across his first 10 games.
And while he again cited a “lack of command” for the home run spike, Cortes found solace in the fact that all six of the recent home runs were solo shots.
“I’ve always heard that solo home runs aren’t gonna hurt you,” Cortes said. “Obviously, it’s harder [to succeed] when you’re giving up homers because that’s not what you want to do. But I think as long as I’m controlling people on the bases and giving up solo home runs here and there, I’d rather give up a solo homer than have a string of four or five hits.”
Ahead of his next start this weekend in Cleveland, Cortes is proceeding with his typical routine. There remains full confidence in him to rediscover his command — and, in the process, his early-season brilliance.
“You’re gonna have 30 starts throughout the year, it’s gonna be tough to keep up everything,” catcher Jose Trevino said. “He’ll figure it out. It’s a lot of feel stuff. He’s gonna get that feeling back.”
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