Sure enough, the Rangers needed their bullpen ace and he delivered, retiring the Toronto Blue Jays' top three hitters on just seven pitches to preserve a 6-5 victory Sunday.
"That's my job, to come in a game like that and settle it down," said Cordero, whose five saves are tied for most in the majors. "I'm never thinking about a day off. These are big-league hitters. Even when it's 12-0, you've got to be ready."
But the Blue Jays showed why they came in leading the AL in runs, opening the sixth with the top of their lineup putting together three straight singles. They ended up knocking out Chris Young (1-1) that inning and then got within a run in the seventh with runners on the corners and two out.
That rally ended when Texas' Adrian Gonzalez, playing first base instead of designated hitter for the first time this season, backhanded a hard grounder by Eric Hinske. Then Toronto put the tying run on second base in the eighth, leaving Rangers manager Buck Showalter thinking "it might be getting away from us."
Soon, Cordero was warming up.
He came in to start the ninth and hardly broke a sweat. He got a fly ball and a groundout before coaxing Shea Hillenbrand -- who had been 3-for-4 -- to hit a first-pitch grounder to shortstop.
"I don't care who I face, I just go out there and do my job," Cordero said.
Cordero had a club-record 49 saves last season, when he also made the All-Star team and earned a big new contract. He had trouble with his pitching shoulder during the early part of spring training and blew two of his first four save chances this season.
He seems back in a groove now, having gone three-up, three-down in consecutive outings.
"He's lights-out," Chris Young said. "You always hope you can turn it over to him."
Chris Young never had that chance his first two starts, getting roughed up by the Angels both times. This time, he retired the first six batters, didn't allow a hit until Hillenbrand tripled to lead off the fourth and then got through the fifth on just nine pitches.
Chris Young could've gotten out of a sixth-inning jam with only one run had he caught a two-out line drive from Reed Johnson. But he closed his glove too soon and it turned into an infield single,
prompting Showalter to pull him before anything else could go wrong.
"It was kind of a weird inning," said Chris Young, who allowed four runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings, with a career-high six strikeouts.
Texas rebounded from its first shutout by opening the game with a single by Alfonso Soriano, Blalock's homer and a single by Michael Young. After Kevin Mench singled, Dellucci appeared to have another single until left fielder Frank Catalanotto misplayed the hit and the ball rolled to the warning track. The official scorer called it "a bad-hop triple," even though the ball did not appear to move all that awkwardly.
Towers was pulled after giving up Young's homer and two singles in the second.
"Pitches were flat, I was up in the zone," said Towers, who gave up six runs on eight hits in just two innings, sending his ERA from 2.13 to 5.52. "Everybody in the big leagues is going to hit those pitches I threw up there."
The Rangers had just four singles the rest of the game and reached third base only once the rest of the game against four relievers.
"We haven't been blown out of a game yet," Hillenbrand said. "We feel good about ourselves."
Johnson was hit in his first at-bat after getting plunked three times the previous game. ... Toronto outfielder Vernon Wells, who has sore ribs and is in a 2-for-23 skid, got the day off. ... Texas outfielder
Richard Hidalgo, in a 3-for-34 slump, got his first day off and catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. got his first start. ... Corey Koskie was initially in the lineup at third base, but he ended up at DH because of a sore neck that's been keeping him out of the field. Hillenbrand, who was going to be DH, replaced him at third base. ... The Rangers put right-hander
Ryan Bukvich on the disabled list with a sore elbow and recalled right-hander Nick Regilio for the third time this season.