KANSAS CITY, Mo. —This was the breaking point. Joakim Soria knew that better than anyone after another meltdown in the ninth inning. Another blown save. Another crushing loss instead of a much-needed victory.
So Soria sought out Royals manager Ned Yost after allowing three ninth-inning runs in Monday's 10-8 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Kauffman Stadium. And Soria admitted the obvious.
It's time to back off.
"I went to his office and told him it's the right time to do it," Soria said. "I don't want to be (the reason for) this losing streak. The team is playing really well, and they need a man who can go after (the other team). Right now, that's not (me)."
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"It's time to step up and make a change," he said, "and let (Soria) take a step back and get himself together so he can take that closer's role over again in the near future."
Yost identified rookie Aaron Crow as Soria's primary replacement. Crow is the logical choice after going 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in 22 games.
"I don't want to pile a bunch of consecutive days and consecutive innings on him," Yost cautioned. "We'll start with Aaron and kind of go day by day. But on days that he's rested and feels good, it'll be Aaron Crow for the time being."
The move comes after Soria turned a ninth-inning lead into a loss for the third time in seven days. He has four blown saves in his last five opportunities after never blowing more than three saves in any of the three previous seasons.
"I know I can do this," said Soria, whose 6.55 ERA is a stark contrast to his 2.01 career mark entering the season. "I know I'm the type of person who never gives up. This is not giving up.
"This is a time to take a break and rebuild everything I've done and to try to figure out what is going on."
Soria met with Yost after blowing a one-run lead Sunday in a 7-6 loss at Texas.
"I asked (Ned) to go out there and get another chance," Soria said. "And it happened (Monday against the Angels). After I blew the save, I went to Ned and said, 'I need a break.' I want the Royals to win."
Soria inherited an 8-7 lead Monday and delivered a three-pitch strikeout of Erick Aybar before Bobby Abreu followed with a single past third baseman Wilson Betemit for his fourth hit.
Torii Hunter worked the count to 2-0 before hammering a 403-foot drive to left for his second homer of the game. The Angels added another run on two singles and an error.
Afterward, Hunter danced away from a question seeking illumination on Soria's ineffectiveness.
"I would never tell you that because I'm the enemy," Hunter said. "Why would I tell you that? He'd read that and go, 'Oh, that's what I'm doing.' I'd never tell you that. Sorry, he's still the best to me."
This was a numbing loss.
The Royals built a 6-1 lead through two innings for starter Luke Hochevar but saw the Angels claw back to 6-5 by the middle of the seventh.
The Royals then scored twice in their seventh (-) once when Billy Butler rumbled home from first on a grounder up the right-field line. The Angels answered that with homers by Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos in the eighth against Louis Coleman.
"They were right down the middle of the plate, basically," Coleman said. "Both of them. I just didn't hit the spot I wanted."
That meant Soria had only a one-run lead when he entered in the ninth.
"I faced that first hitter," Soria said, "and it felt like always with my pitches. I struck him out. But the next guy, base-hit. Then homer. And everything else."
The loss was the 13th in 16 games for the Royals, who fell to 23-30. Kevin Jepsen, 1-2, got the victory by pitching 1 1/3 innings after the Royals stretched their lead to 8-5. Fernando Rodney closed out the game for his third save.
The Royals built their 6-1 lead by scoring three times in the first and second innings against LA starter Ervin Santana. Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer hit homers in the first inning, and Hosmer added a two-run double in the second.
"We put some runs on the board early," Hosmer said, "but at the end of the day, all you're trying to do is win a ballgame. It was a tough way to lose."
The lead was down to 6-4 when Hochevar, having thrown 105 pitches, exited after the fifth innings.
"I didn't feel like I had my best stuff," he said. "I didn't feel like my command was there. When that happens, it just turns into a street fight. You've just got to figure out a way and find a way to get it done, but I didn't pitch deep into the ballgame."
Greg Holland pitched around a one-out double in the sixth, and Everett Teaford got the first two outs in the seventh before surrendering Hunter's first homer, a 421-foot blast that pulled the Angels to within 6-5.
The Royals regained some breathing room in the seventh against reliever Rich Thompson after Butler punched a two-out single, which extended his franchise-record hitting streak to 123 consecutive series.
Betemit then pulled a grounder past first that rolled into the corner as Hunter chased it down. Third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez waved Butler to the plate, and Butler barely beat the relay from second baseman Macier Izturis. Betemit wound up with a triple.
Chris Getz delivered an RBI single later in the inning for an 8-5 lead that seemed safe until Coleman surrendered two homers, and Soria unraveled in the ninth... again. Next time, the ball goes to Crow in that situation.
"Jack has been one of the best closers in baseball for a few years now," Crow said. "I was told it was just temporary until Jack gets back to his old self. Then he'll back closing out like he used to."