Padilla struck out eight and allowed just four hits in eight innings, equaling his longest outing of the season as the Rangers beat Oakland 3-0 Sunday night to stop the Athletics' three-game winning streak.
"I thought it was his best all season," Rangers catcher Gerald Laird said. "He went out and competed. He let his fastball go so they had to cover his curve."
Texas salvaged the final game of the three-game series and moved within eight games of Oakland. The A's hold a 5½ game division lead over the Angels.
"We just wanted to stay alive," Laird said. "We kept a heartbeat tonight."
Dan Haren had won six straight decisions for the AL West-leading A's, but Padilla outpitched him.
Padilla (13-8) improved to 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his six starts against Oakland this season, using a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s and an effective curve to match his season-high for strikeouts. Padilla also had four walks.
"It was great that he attacked the zone," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "Certainly it was one of our better starts this season. He continued to make good pitches. He was not letting them get back in the count. He stayed aggressive."
Padilla, who started the night with a league-high 16 hit batters, did not come close to hitting any on Sunday night. He was making his second start since serving a five-game suspension for throwing at a batter after being warned during a game against the Los Angeles Angels.
"Maybe he just likes pitching against us, and he didn't hit anybody tonight," A's manager Ken Macha said.
Padilla does not speak to reporters.
Akinori Otsuka pitched the ninth for his 28th save in 31 chances to complete Texas' eighth shutout this season.
Matt Stairs homered and Gary Matthews Jr. went 3-for-4 for the Rangers, who had lost five of their previous six.
The A's return to Oakland after a 6-4 road trip that got underway with a doubleheader defeat at Kansas City.
"It was a nice road trip," Macha said. "But we've got a very difficult schedule in September. We've still got a long way to go."
Haren (12-10), who had not lost since July 21, struck out a career-high 12 in seven innings. He allowed three runs and seven hits, walking two.
The Rangers went ahead 2-0 in the second when Hank Blalock walked and Stairs hit the first pitch for his 10th homer.
"Stairs is pretty aggressive on the first pitch," Haren said. "I tried to go away but the ball ran back over the middle of the plate. It was definitely a mistake."
Haren managed to get a victory in his previous start on Aug. 21 at Toronto. He allowed nine runs in 5 2/3 innings but the A's rallied for a 12-10 victory.
"I pitch good this time and lose and pitch bad the last time and win," Haren said. "It's a funny game."
Texas made it 3-0 in the third on Matthews' double and Michael Young's RBI single.
Padilla didn't allow a hit over the first 3 1/3 innings until Milton Bradley's double.
The A's loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth but Padilla struck out Nick Swisher to end the threat.
Oakland wasted another scoring chance in the seventh, putting runners on first and second with one out before Padilla got Mark Ellis to ground into a double play.
- The A's were shut out for the ninth time this season.
- Stairs broke an 0-for-16 slide with his homer.
- Padilla's 64 career wins are second among major league pitchers born in Nicaragua behind Dennis Martinez's 245.
- Padilla leads the Rangers in victories with one more than Kevin Millwood.
- The teams split the 10 games in Texas this season.
- Haren's previous career high for strikeouts was nine.