ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For a guy who insists he's still trying to regain his form, Scott Kazmir sure is pitching well.
The 2007 AL strikeout champion won his fifth straight start Saturday night, allowing three hits in seven innings to outpitch Javier Vazquez in AL East-leading Tampa Bay's 2-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday night.
"Kazmir was the name of the game. We needed a great pitching performance against Vazquez and we got it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought he was closer to what we saw at the end of last season today. Really a great effort on his part."
The 24-year-old left-hander set a Rays record for wins in a month, improving to 5-1 since spending all of April on the disabled list with a left elbow strain that also sidelined him for all but a few days of spring training.
Cliff Floyd homered for the second straight game and B.J. Upton drove in another run off Vazquez (5-4) with an RBI grounder, helping the surprising Rays go 12 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history at a league-best 34-22.
"I feel like I can (pitch better). We'll take it," Kazmir said. "It felt like at times I was falling off the mound a little bit ... but it was working. I'm getting more and more comfortable every game."
The third of four games between division leaders drew a sellout crowd of 36,048, up from 12,636 and 14,679 the previous two nights. It was the third full-house of the season, and mostly could be attributed to a post-game concert featuring country music star Trace Adkins.
"I never saw as many people out here," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who played one season with the Rays in 2000. "It's real nice to see the fans. They should have cowboy night every night."
Kazmir limited the White Sox to Alexei Ramirez's first-inning double and Jermaine Dye's fourth-inning single until Toby Hall singled with two outs in the seventh. He walked three, struck out six, and didn't allow a runner past second base.
The Rays' career wins and strikeouts leader lowered his ERA to 1.22 and hasn't given up more than one run in any of his five outings since Boston scored four in four innings to beat Kazmir in his first start of the season on May 4.
"Kazmir has been throwing really well. It's nothing new," Guillen said. "We continue to struggle at the plate."
Balfour, called up from Triple-A Durham this week when closer Troy Percival went on the 15-day list with a hamstring strain, earned his first career save by getting Brian Anderson to fly to center with the potential tying runs on base.
"I have no problem with any of these guys coming in," said Maddon, who intends to fill the closer's role with several pitchers while Percival is out. "I think any of them can get the last out."
Vazquez pitched well, but not as good as Kazmir.
The Rays only managed five hits against the right-hander in seven innings. But Upton's RBI grounder after Carl Crawford doubled to give Tampa Bay runners at second and third made it 1-0 in the third, and Floyd hit an 0-2 pitch for his fifth homer in the fourth.
Vazquez walked two and struck out a season-high 10, the 34th time in his career he's fanned 10 or more.
"I knew coming in that I can't give up much," said Vazquez, who lost for the first time since he allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings of a 1-0 loss at Toronto on May 5.
The White Sox were 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position and stranded 15 in the first two games of the series, including 1-for-9 when they lost 2-1 Friday night on Floyd's ninth-inning, walkoff homer.
The struggles continued against Kazmir, who gave up a first-inning double to Ramirez before striking out Carlos Quentin and getting Dye to fly to center. The left-hander picked Joe Crede off second base, bailing himself out of a potential jam in the second.
The White Sox, shut out for the sixth time this season, have not scored in the past 13 innings. They were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position Saturday night.
"The positive thing you can look at on the offensive side is we're getting guys on," Crede said. "It's frustrating and tough. ... We might be trying to do too much up there. I think it will come around."
- The sellout was just the 11th in the Rays' 11 seasons. Seven of them have come since the start of last season.
- The White Sox reinstated INF Juan Uribe (strained right hamstring) from the 15-day disabled list and designated OF DeWayne Wise for assignment.
- Tampa Bay OF Rocco Baldelli (mitochondrial disorder) went 0-for-5 in an extended spring training game. He remains of the 60-day DL, but hopes to return to the major leagues before the end of the season.
- White Sox DH Jim Thome, 0-for-10 lifetime against Kazmir, was not in the starting lineup. He pinch-hit against Howell in the eighth, striking out with a runner on second.