KANSAS CITY -- In blowing his second save in as many days, Royals closer Joakim Soria not only lost the game, but his job.
Soria gave up three runs in a 10-8 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, including a two-run home run to Torii Hunter that cost Kansas City a series-opening win on Memorial Day.
Up 8-7 entering the ninth, Soria came in and looked sharp, striking out Erick Aybar to begin the inning. But Bobby Abreu just managed to drop a hit into left field for a single and Hunter smacked a 2-0 pitch 403 feet into the left-field seats, something more reminiscent of Soria's recent struggles.
"He started out the first hitter, like vintage Jack," manager Ned Yost said. "Then Abreu actually hit a pretty good pitch and flicked it into left field, and then Torii Hunter, who always finds a way it seems like, to hit a home run every time he plays us, every game, got a pitch up out over the plate a bit and drove it into the seats."
Soria's performance led Yost to say he would begin using Aaron Crow in the closer role, at least temporarily. Soria will be used in low-pressure situations for now, though he insists he doesn't feel any different than before his current skid.
"I tried to get to top of [Hunter] and got behind on the count and he hit a fastball right in there," Soria said. Prior to that home run, Hunter was just 2-for-12 against Soria, with no extra-base hits.
Kansas City jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the second inning off Angels starter Ervin Santana, who threw 79 pitches in just his first three innings. Alex Gordon hit his first career leadoff home run and rookie Eric Hosmer drove in four runs in the first two innings, on a two-run homer and a double off of the right-center field wall.
"We jumped on Santana early -- I mean, that's as good as we've done against Santana since I've been here ... He's very, very difficult to hit off of, and to score six runs in the first two innings was big for us," Yost said.
But Santana managed to settle in and pitch six innings, striking out five. After allowing four hits, issuing four walks and hitting two batters in the first two innings, he scattered three hits over the next four innings.
The Angels' hitters would proceed to pester Royals starter Luke Hochevar, who pitched five innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks.
Hochevar gave up an RBI double to Abreu and RBI single to Alberto Callaspo in the third to draw the game to 6-3. When Hochevar left after five, Kansas City held a 6-4 lead. Despite leaving with the Royals ahead, Hochevar wasn't pleased with his performance.
"Today I didn't feel like I had my best stuff, I didn't feel like my command was there for the middle part of the innings," he said. "When that happens, it just turns into a streetfight; you've just got to figure out a way, find a way to get it done. I didn't pitch deep into the ballgame. With that, I'm disappointed."
Still, it was the bullpen -- for the second game in a row -- that cost the Royals a win. The Angels scored one run in the seventh, but Kansas City came back and scored two in the bottom of the inning to push its lead to 8-5.
With one out in the top of the eighth, Yost inserted Louis Coleman who hadn't pitched in two days, instead of Crow, who worked in Sunday's game against Texas. Coleman left a couple of pitches over the middle of the plate, resulting in solo home runs to Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos, cutting the lead to 8-7.
"You've got to stay low and away. You can't afford to miss middle in those situations," Coleman said. "If we were up by 10 runs, a couple of solo home runs aren't going to do anything. But we were only up by three, we need to try and keep that lead."
Yost said he used Coleman over Crow because the latter had thrown 20 pitches the day before. With a young bullpen, the Royals are trying to avoid overworking their pitchers in order to keep them healthy.
Abreu and Hunter led the way for the Angels, going a combined 7-for-10 with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs.
"Those two guys are really the foundation of what we need to do," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
The Royals have now lost 13 of their last 16 games, while the Angels staged a late-inning comeback for the second time in their last four games. The Halos scored six runs over the final two innings to beat Minnesota on Friday night.
"I definitely feel like we have a lot of fight in us. We keep battling. We concentrate more when we're behind and work the count," said Hunter, who recorded his 1,000th career RBI on his ninth-inning homer. "That's one thing this team has, a lot of fight."
Kansas City may also be fighting, but the Royals are finding themselves on the floor at the end more often than not. Since winning two of three in New York against the Yankees earlier in May, Kansas City has gone winless in six consecutive series, losing five and splitting one.
With the season one-third over, the Royals sit seven games under .500 and 9 1/2 games behind the American League Central Division-leading Indians.
"There's plenty of time to catch up," Hosmer said. "I think everyone in our division, except for Cleveland, is almost right around the same record. When we're flying on all cylinders, we're pretty good. We'll catch up to Cleveland hopefully pretty soon."
Adam Holt is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.