BALTIMORE — Let's start with this: Joakim Soria is healthy. So he insists, and so do the Royals. Further, his hold on his job as the club's closer remains airtight. Non-negotiable.
That those points require confirmation underscores the depth of Soria's mounting struggles, which reached a new low Tuesday night when he surrendered three runs in the ninth inning in a stunning 5-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
"It's like I was telling you (in the past) when everything was right," Soria said. "It's never easy. And sometimes, you have a bad season. We've got to figure out what's going on.
"I'm working hard. It's just baseball. Baseball is not giving me anything right now."
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The end came when Adam Jones crushed an 0-2 fastball with two outs for a two-run walk-off homer. That was a 418-foot bomb and came after Soria blew a 3-2 lead on successive one-out doubles by J.J. Hardy and pinch-hitter Felix Pie.
Those two doubles snatched away rookie Danny Duffy's first career victory.
It was a crushing turnaround.
"We hate closers in here," Jones said. "We want to give all the closers Ls. We were able to do it. We've gotten to a few closers here this year. That's what it comes down to. They're trying to close us out, and we aren't letting them go."
Soria (3-1) had never permitted a run in 12 previous career appearances against the Orioles. He was also seven for seven in save opportunities while permitted just six hits in 40 at-bats.
Boy, did that change.
Hardy ripped a one-out double off third baseman Wilson Betemit's glove before Pie followed with a hard-shot double past Betemit that scored the tying run.
"The first one was right on the line and hit the end of my glove," Betemit said. "The second one, a lefty, I was playing off the line. That was tough."
Soria struck out Robert Andino before jumping ahead of Jones. Then, boom.
"That pitch was up and away," Soria said, "and he hit it well. I tried to throw a fastball away, and he hit it well. In this park, if you hit the ball well, it's going to go out."
Alfredo Simon (1-0) got the victory after pitching the top of the inning. It was his first appearance since his reinstatement Saturday from the restricted list after being charged in the off-season with involuntary manslaughter in the Dominican Republic.
Duffy worked five scoreless innings in his second career start before failing to survive the sixth. He allowed two runs and five hits, while striking out six and walking three.
"The last (start)," Duffy said, "I was a little more amped up, obviously. I felt like it was just baseball today. I felt like I did pretty well. I'm happy with my start, but we didn't come out with a win."
A bullpen relay of Louis Coleman, Blake Wood and Aaron Crow nursed the one-run lead into the ninth.
Soria now has three blown saves in 10 chances, and his latest collapse spiked his ERA to an almost-unfathomable 5.12 after compiling a 2.01 mark in his first four years. He also had just three blown saves — total — in each of the three previous seasons.
Even so, manager Ned Yost rejected any suggestion of removing Soria, an All-Star in 2008 and 2010, from his role as the club's closer.
"You know what?" Yost said. "Our bullpen has been so good, all of the young guys, because Joakim Soria is the closer. They've got that assurance that he's going to take care of the back end.
"There's no consideration (of making a change). Jack is the closer. That's just the way it is."
The Royals built a 3-0 lead against Baltimore starter Zach Britton by scoring single runs in the first, third and sixth innings. Alex Gordon ignited the first inning with a leadoff bunt, and he powered a one-out homer in the third.
Duffy carried that lead into the sixth before weakening. Nick Markakis led off with a single, stole second and scored on Matt Wieters' one-out double off the right-field video board.
Coleman replaced Duffy, and his first offering to pinch-hitter Luke Scott was a wild pitch that moved Wieters to third. That mistake turned into a run when Scott reached on an infield single that caromed away from Coleman.
That run was also charged to Duffy, but Orioles got nothing further — until the ninth.
"I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing different from the previous seasons," Soria said. "And it's nothing. My command is not that bad. It's just that, sometimes, baseball doesn't give you anything."