BALTIMORE – Joakim Soria is desperately trying to regain the form he displayed last season, when the right-hander registered 43 saves in 46 tries and made the All-Star team.
Until he improves, the Kansas City Royals must realize that no lead is safe.
Working with a one-run cushion in the ninth inning, Soria first allowed the Baltimore Orioles to pull even, then gave up a two-run walkoff homer to Adam Jones in a 5-3 loss Tuesday night.
It was the third blown save for Soria — matching his total from all last season.
"He's working every day, refining his mechanics. He's just struggling right now," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It's some command. I don't know if it's mechanics, even though he's working on his mechanics every day early.
"It's just location more than anything else. He's normally a guy whose location is pinpoint, but it's been off a little bit. He'll get it going again."
Baltimore trailed 3-2 entering the ninth. After Soria (3-1) retired the first batter, J.J. Hardy doubled off the glove of third baseman Wilson Betemit. Pinch-hitter Felix Pie then grounded a double inside third base to tie it.
Soria rebounded to strike out Robert Andino before Jones homered on an 0-2 pitch.
"That was up and he hit it good," Soria said of his ill-fated fastball.
Soria was at a loss to explain his inconsistency.
"Sometimes you have a bad season and you try to figure out what is going on," he said. "I just go over there, I feel good. I am working hard. It's just baseball. Baseball is giving me nothing right now."
Alfredo Simon (1-0) worked a perfect ninth in his season debut. He missed the start of the year after being charged with involuntary manslaughter in his native Dominican Republic; no trial date has been set.
It was the eighth loss in 10 games for Kansas City, now 14-2 when leading after eight innings.
Royals rookie Danny Duffy gave up two runs and five hits over 5 1-3 innings in his second big-league start. The 22-year-old took a three-hit shutout into the sixth before running into trouble trying to protect a 3-0 lead.
Duffy was poised to collect his first win in the majors before Baltimore's ninth-inning rally.
"He will get deeper in the games," Yost said of the left-hander. "He did very well."
Orioles starter Zach Britton allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings, but the rookie was again victimized by a lack of offensive support. The Orioles had gone three straight games without scoring while Britton was in the game before getting two runs in the sixth.
Britton has a 2.35 ERA overall and has allowed a total of six earned runs over his last four starts, but he's 0-1 in that span.
Britton's streak of 19 straight innings without allowing an earned run ended when three of the first four Kansas City batters singled, including an RBI liner to left by Jeff Francoeur.
Alex Gordon made it 2-0 in the third with his fifth home run, the first yielded by Britton in three starts since May 6.
The Royals added a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Billy Butler. In the bottom half, Nick Markakis singled and stole second before Matt Wieters chased Duffy with an RBI double and Louis Coleman gave up a run-scoring single to pinch-hitter Luke Scott.
NOTES: Orioles manager Buck Showalter said both RHP Brian Matusz (oblique) and 1B Derrek Lee (oblique) should be ready to come off the DL on June 1. Matusz will pitch for Triple-A Norfolk on Friday. ... Baltimore 2B Brian Roberts (concussion) saw a specialist in Pittsburgh on Tuesday and is expected to be sidelined for at least three more weeks. ... SS Cesar Izturis underwent surgery on his right elbow Tuesday and will probably miss 6-8 weeks. "If everything goes as planned, he'll be a player for us again this year," Showalter said. ... There was a moment of silence before the game for those killed and injured over the weekend by a tornado in Missouri. ... Butler has hit in 121 straight series, second-longest active streak in the majors behind Markakis (155).