Kansas City, Mo. For a moment, Francisco Cordero thought he'd blown it.
But Desi Relaford's ninth-inning drive with two runners on and two out settled into the glove of right fielder Gary Matthews Jr. at the warning track, preserving the Texas Rangers' 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.
"It was a 2-0 count, a hitter's count. He hit it real good. I thought the ball was going out," said Cordero, who tied his team record with his 19th straight save.
Mark Teixeira hit his 30th homer and Manny Alexander added a two-run double for the Rangers, who matched their longest winning streak of the season at eight games and remained tied with Boston for the AL wild-card lead. They trail first-place Oakland by a half-game in the AL West.
After striking out the first two batters in the ninth, Cordero surrendered singles to Mike Sweeney and Abraham Nunez. But the Royals, whose 43-77 record is the worst in club history for 120 games, wound up stranding seven runners in the last three innings.
"We had a lot of chances tonight but couldn't come through with a big hit," Kansas City manager Tony Pena said.
Cordero has 39 saves off 41 opportunities. Only Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, with 41, has more saves.
"That guy Cordero is a monster," Pena said.
Texas starter Mickey Callaway allowed only two runs and five hits but was lifted after 42/3 innings, one out from qualifying for his first win since April 1, 2003, with Anaheim.
Making his second start since missing 123 days with an elbow injury, the right-hander was trying to end a personal eight-game losing skid. He yielded Ruben Gotay's sacrifice fly and Joe Randa's RBI single in the fifth before giving way to Franklin Francisco (4-1).
"You always want to stay in," Callaway said. "But we did what was right for the team tonight and got the win."
He said he had no quarrel with manager Buck Showalter, especially in light of the eight-game winning streak.
"He pushes the right buttons and we're all feeling a good flow," he said. "He makes the decisions. I just go out there and pitch when he tells me to."
Francisco retired Sweeney on a pop fly to end the threat in the fifth and went two innings for the win, allowing one run and two hits.
Teixeira homered leading off a four-run fourth against Brian Anderson (2-11). Alexander's two-run double a few minutes later made it 4-0, and Eric Young's RBI single put the Rangers on top 5-0.
Young doubled leading off the first for the Rangers and scored on Alfonso Soriano's sacrifice fly.