Padilla defeats Nats for 10th win

Padilla defeats Nats for 10th win

WASHINGTON -- It has become a foregone conclusion that Josh Hamilton will represent the Rangers at the All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium next month. The mystery is which, if any, of his teammates will be joining him.

Vicente Padilla is making a strong case to be included on the list of candidates.

His fastball has been terrific, his command and location have been on target, he has kept his mercurial composure in tough situations and his run support would be the envy of any pitcher. Throw them all together, and Padilla is very much looking like an All-Star possibility, staff ace, 20-game winner -- whatever moniker or label there is to toss out there.

Padilla, fighting off the heat and humidity on a muggy Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park, won for the eighth time in his past 11 starts by pitching the Rangers to a 5-3 victory over the Washington Nationals. The victory was the Rangers' fourth in their past six games, and they are back to one game over .500. They have yet to go two games over .500 this season.

"We've been here before," manager Ron Washington said. "We just have to keep playing good baseball, get good pitching and good defense, and that will take care of itself."

Padilla has been providing much good pitching lately. Relying mainly on his fastball, Padilla held the Nationals to three runs on five hits and two walks in seven innings and struck out five, and he is now 8-1 with a 3.28 ERA in his past 11 starts.

"Oh my gosh, he's throwing like an ace," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "With him and [Kevin Millwood] going out there right now, it's like 1A and 1B. It's pretty nice when you know if you give a guy a couple of runs, we're going to get a win. He's got it going right now."

Run support has not been a problem for Padilla. He leads the league in run support, and he's certainly living a far more charmed existence right now then, say, hard-luck case Scott Feldman.

Padilla, getting home runs from Brandon Boggs and Ian Kinsler (on his 26th birthday), took a 3-1 lead into the seventh before giving up a two-run home run to Ronnie Belliard in what would be his final inning of work.

But the Rangers struck back immediately against Nationals reliever Luis Ayala in the top of the eighth. Boggs walked to lead off the inning. Ayala struck out both Michael Young and Hamilton, but walked Byrd. Frank Catalanotto, pinch-hitting for Max Ramirez, grounded a single through the left-side hole to bring home the go-ahead run, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed that with a single up the middle, to make it 5-3.

"Any time a guy ties it up with a home run like that, it can get a little deflating," Catalanotto said. "But the good thing about this team is we know the kind of offense we have is going to score some runs. We don't get down. We still knew we had a few innings left."

Eddie Guardado took over for Padilla and retired the side in order in the eighth. That left the ninth for C.J. Wilson, and he put aside a couple of rough outings last week in Arlington by finishing it off. He struck out Lastings Milledge, gave up a single to Dmitri Young and then got Jesus Flores to hit into a game-ending double play.

"That was a great one," Wilson said after his 15th save. "I hadn't pitched in a couple of days, and the last time out, the results weren't good. Closing is a results-oriented job, and not too many people are going to be patient. You've got to get results, and I'm fine with that."

The result of his work on Sunday left Padilla 10-3 with a 3.74 ERA on the season, with Texas still four games short of the midway point. Padilla is the 21st pitcher in Rangers history to win 10 games before the All-Star break, and it ties him for the second-most wins in the American League. Cliff Lee of the Indians leads with 11.

"I've had good location with my pitches and the run support of my guys," Padilla said, explaining his success. It's still the decent beginning to an All-Star resume.

"He belongs," Washington said. "He's given us everything we've asked from him from Day 1 of Spring Training. He stays out there and keeps hanging in there. He knows if he hangs in there and gives your team a chance, you'll be rewarded."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.