Santana scattered five hits and struck out eight over eight innings, Jeff Mathis homered, and the Angels ended a three-game skid with a 6-2 victory over the Rangers on Saturday night.
Santana (9-7) had an 8.05 ERA in his first nine career starts at Rangers Ballpark, but the only damage Texas could do against him were solo homers by Michael Young and Nelson Cruz.
Santana realized the importance of the stopping the Rangers' momentum, walking only two and winning for the first time since June 27.
The Angels pulled within six games of Texas in the division.
"It's always important, especially in the second half," Santana said. "Every inning counts, every pitch counts. We're focusing very hard on winning."
The Angels managed only two runs in the first two games of the four-game series against the Rangers, so manager Mike Scioscia liked what he saw from a lineup that knocked out 13 hits.
"We were playing free tonight," Scioscia said. "We know what our focus needs to be. We need to come back and build some momentum (on Sunday night) like we did tonight."
Erick Aybar had three hits and reached base four times for the Angels, who dropped the first two games of the four-game series as the Rangers built a season-high lead in the division.
"(Aybar) getting on base with the hits is pretty good," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said. "Now it changes the way the pitcher pitches the hitters. More fastballs because he has speed."
Santana limited the Rangers to two hits over the first 5 2-3 innings before Young homered in his third straight game to pull Texas within 3-1.
Cruz's homer in the seventh narrowed the deficit to 6-2 and extended his career-best hitting streak to 13 games, but teammate Ian Kinsler went 0 for 2 to end his streak at 16 games.
"It came down to pitching," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Santana had a great breaking ball and change-up, he moved his fastball around, and he made us put the ball in play quick. He had good stuff tonight."
Texas starter Scott Feldman (5-9) entered the night with a 5.48 ERA, highest among the team's active starters, but he shut down the Angels on two hits over the first 4 2-3 innings.
The Angels had 10 fly outs in the first four innings before Feldman faltered in the fifth.
Mathis opened the scoring with a solo homer that skipped off the top of the wall in right field, and Aybar added an RBI triple later in the inning for a 2-0 edge.
"The first four innings went well, but I got behind in the count and got some balls up in the fifth," Feldman said. "I didn't execute some pitches and they made me pay."
Feldman was replaced by Alexi Ogando with one out in the sixth and runners at the corners, and Alberto Callaspo greeted Ogando with an RBI single to make it 3-0.
Feldman, a 17-game winner last season who hasn't won since June 18, allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings with one walk and no strikeouts.
In the seventh, Maicer Izturis's run-scoring single, Bobby Abreu's RBI double and Callaspo's sacrifice fly off ex-Angel Darren Oliver stretched the lead to 6-1.
Notes: Before the game, Tom Grieve became the 13th inductee into the Rangers Hall of Fame. The 62-year-old Grieve has been a Rangers player, team executive and broadcaster for almost 44 years, the last 16 as a TV analyst. ... The Rangers had about 50 ex-players for their annual alumni weekend. ... Texas placed C Matt Treanor on the 15-day DL with a strained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and recalled Taylor Teagarden from Double-A Frisco to replace Treanor as Bengie Molina's backup. ... Young homered in three straight games for the second time in his career. He also did so in 2004. ... The crowd of 47,098 was the Rangers' third sellout of the season and second in a row. ... LHP Derek Holland threw three shutout innings in a rehab start for the Rangers' Arizona Rookie League team on Friday and is scheduled for a five-inning start for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Holland is on the 15-day DL with inflammation of the left rotator cuff, and the Rangers are looking for Holland to rejoin the rotation in August. ... The Angels rested 2B Howie Kendrick and RF Juan Rivera.