ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If only for one day, the Tampa Bay Rays found a way around their offensive woes with runners in scoring position.
They hit the ball over the wall on Thursday night.
Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford smacked solo homers and Jeff Niemann pitched eight strong innings to remain unbeaten as the AL East leaders stopped a season-high, three-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
"We swung the bats pretty well," Crawford said. "Hopefully that's a sign of things to come."
The Rays own baseball's best record at 33-15. But they've struggled in key situations lately, going 2 for 25 with men in scoring position while being swept in a three-game series by Boston this week.
They were 0 for 5 Thursday before Hank Blalock drove in two runs with an eighth-inning single.
But by that time, they were already in control because of Crawford and Longoria's homers and Niemann's pitching.
"We played great in all facets of the game," Niemann said.
Crawford hit his fourth homer in the first inning and also drove in a run off Gavin Floyd (2-5) with a sacrifice fly in the fifth. Longoria's solo shot off the Chicago starter put Tampa Bay ahead 3-0 in the sixth.
The Rays only managed four hits off Floyd over seven innings. But it didn't matter with the White Sox sputtering offensively in their first game since manager Ozzie Guillen's expletive-filled postgame rant about umpire Joe West in Cleveland.
Guillen and pitcher Mark Buehrle were ejected by West for protesting a pair of balks during a victory over the Indians on Wednesday.
The manager said before Thursday's game that he spoke his mind about West's handling of the ejections but did not feel he did anything to warrant harsh disciplinary action.
"I say what I feel. I don't think I say anything to disrepect anybody or the game. If Major League Baseball will do something, they know where to find me," Guillen said.
"I don't think it should be anything to make a big deal about it," he added. "We'll wait and see."
Guillen said there were no hard feelings.
"I think Joe is one of the best umpires in the game, there's no doubt. I'm the type of guy, no matter what happened yesterday, to me it's another day," the manager said. "I'm not going to hold any grudges against him."
A close call that went against the White Sox in the fifth inning brought Guillen out of the dugout again Thursday.
This time, he mildly protested to umpire Eric Cooper that Teahen, the third baseman, had put a good tag on Rays runner Sean Rodriguez, who advanced on a pop fly that was caught in foul territory.
"The play is supposed to be safe, but the umpire gave me the wrong answer. He said he missed the tag," Guillen said. "He maybe tagged him late, but he don't miss the tag. I went out and asked him, and he said `missed the tag.' The replay showed he was safe, but not because he missed the tag."
Rodriguez scored, making it 2-0, on Crawford's sacrifice fly. Longoria's 10th homer gave Niemann a three-run lead, and Blalock's two-run single off Scott Linebrink made it 5-1 in the eighth.
"They're a good team," Floyd said. "They have a lot of tools. They've got speed, they've got power, play defense real well and have good pitching. They're all around a good team."Notes
- Guillen will miss Friday night's game to attend his son's high school graduation in Miami. Ozney Guillen has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at South Florida.
- Slumping Rays CF B.J. Upton was out of the starting lineup for the second straight night, a break manager Joe Maddon hopes will enable Upton, who's batting .210, to "resettle" and stop pressing at the plate. He entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth and is set to return to the starting lineup Friday.
- Tampa Bay LHP David Price (7-1) will go for his AL-leading eighth win Friday. The White Sox handed him his only loss April 20 in Chicago.