ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jayson Nix gave the White Sox an unlikely lift.
Nix hit his first career grand slam, helping Chicago beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-5 on Sunday to split a four-game series with the AL East-leaders.
"Every time you hit a homer it's a good feeling, but this one was great," said Nix, who went deep on a 3-2 pitch from James Shields. "When I got two strikes, I just wanted to put the ball in play and make something happen."
Nix put the White Sox up 7-3 on his homer in the sixth. He replaced Mark Teahen, who left in the fourth with a right middle finger injury, at third base.
"All of a sudden he just comes into the game, off the bench and hits a grand slam," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That's how it works sometimes."
Ben Zobrist homered and had two RBI for the Rays, who went 2-5 on a seven-game homestand. Tampa Bay, with the major's best record (34-17), is just 15-12 at home.
"Playing not as well here is dumbfounding," Maddon said. "I think, maybe, the other teams coming in are raising their level against right now. I really believe we'll right ourselves here."
Chicago, at 22-28, has not yet reached the high expectations coming out of spring training and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen feels the team has little time to impress general manager Ken Williams heading into the non-waiver trade deadline in July.
"It's going to be a month to show Kenny, OK, we add or we subtract," Guillen said. "What way are we going to go? Are we going to move people or are we going to add people? I want to keep our guys. We've got to play good and make it tough for him."
Chicago right-hander Jake Peavy (4-4) allowed five runs and 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings.
"He struggled a little bit, but when that guy goes out there, he's going to battle all game no matter what he has," Guillen said.
Shields (5-3) went 5 1/3 innings, giving up seven runs and 11 hits.
"Absolute terrible game," Shields said. "For me, it's unacceptable. I'm better than that. I guess we've got to move on, but you go and put that loss on me."
After Matt Thornton allowed one hit over 2 1/3 scoreless innings, Tony Pena got the final two outs in the ninth in a non-save situation.
"He's amazing," Guillen said of Thornton. "I just took him out in the last inning because I don't want to abuse this guy. If we can't hold a three-run lead with two outs [to go], then we have problems."
White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, who tweaked his right calf running on Friday, was not available and is day to day.
Zobrist had a third-inning solo homer and added a sacrifice fly during a two-run fifth. The Rays pulled to 7-5 on RBI singles by Reid Brignac and Carl Crawford in the sixth.
Alex Rios hit an RBI single in a two-run first and had a solo shot during the third for Chicago. Omar Vizquel hit an eighth-inning run-scoring double.
Tampa Bay players will be wearing hockey uniforms on the flight to Toronto for Monday night's game with the Blue Jays as part of a road trip theme. Many are sporting Chicago Blackhawks' sweaters, which the Stanley Cup finalists sent to the Rays for free. "It's all in fun," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's cool." ... White Sox 2B Gordon Beckman, who hit .167 with no extra base hits in May, got the day off. ... Rays SS Jason Bartlett, who strained his right hamstring Saturday, didn't play. He is also expected to sit out Monday's game. ... Teahen will have X-rays taken on Monday.