ST. PETERSBURG -- Understating the obvious, the Rays pitchers did their job -- 23 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run backed that fact.
Given that resistance to surrendering runs, all the Rays had to do to win Saturday night's game was just score a run at some point. How hard could it be?
Five hours and seven minutes later, the Rays just couldn't answer.
After tying the game with a run in the seventh, Rays hitters could not score a run in the eight innings that followed. Meanwhile, the pitching finally submitted in the 15th when the Marlins pushed across a run to earn a 4-3 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
"Every time we came up to bat, I definitely thought we were going to come through with a 'W,'" Sean Rodriguez said. "We've been known to do that a lot. We had a couple opportunities. You can't say we didn't have enough chances to come up to the plate -- 15 innings."
Added Rays manager Joe Maddon: "I thought we were very unfortunate. We hit a lot of balls well in moments that were just outs with people in scoring position. It just didn't want to work for us tonight. But I thought we played it hard all the way to very end. They just happened to beat us tonight. I'm not displeased with anything."
The loss snapped the Rays' eight-game winning streak over the Marlins that dated back to May 22, 2011, moving the third-place Rays to 36-29 on the season, 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Yankees in the American League East.
Brandon Gomes started his second inning of work in the 15th and surrendered a one-out double to former Ray Justin Ruggiano. Scott Cousins followed with a triple to right field that gave the Marlins their first earned run of the series and a lead that would hold.
"I fell behind [Ruggiano], and I just challenged him there," Gomes said. "I think I left a fastball up and he hit it pretty well the other way, he's a good fastball hitter. And the next guy, I hung him a split -- just a lack of execution there. If I could take one pitch back, it would be that one."
Gomes struck out Cousins swinging in the ninth inning of Friday night's 11-0 Rays win.
"I told myself, after facing him yesterday, he loves his split-finger," Cousins said. "I told myself to sit on that. He threw it 2-1, and I got good wood on that."
Frustrations for the Rays began long before Saturday night's game turned into the third-longest game by innings in team history.
James Shields started for the Rays, hoping to perpetuate his mastery of the Marlins. The Rays right-hander had won three consecutive starts against Miami and had not lost to the club since June 10, 2010. And the Rays' ace showed up with the stuff capable of once again shutting down the Marlins. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Miami scored three unearned runs in the first two innings to take a 3-0 lead.
But the Rays didn't sack the bats.
Elliot Johnson tripled to open the Rays' third and scored on an infield single by Jose Molina, who added a solo home run in the fifth to cut the Marlins' lead to 3-2.
Rodriguez tripled with two out in the seven to score Carlos Pena from first base to tie the game at 3.
Despite allowing no earned runs in 7 2/3 innings, Shields finished with a no-decision.
"I felt pretty good out there today, but errors cost us some," said Shields, who leads the Major Leagues with 12 unearned runs on his ledger this season. "We came back strong. The bullpen did a phenomenal job. To be able to hang in there that long and kind of grind it out, it was good to see."
The Rays committed three errors Saturday night, giving the team 57 in 65 games. A year ago at the same point, the Rays had just 31 errors.
The parade of Rays pitchers that followed Shields included: Joel Peralta, Fernando Rodney, Jake McGee, Wade Davis and Burke Badenhop before Gomes.
And the final Rays pitching line showed one earned run on 13 hits with four walks and 13 strikeouts.
"They all did [great]," Maddon said. "Hop did great. I mean Hop did great. Jake did his job. Wade was really good again. Gosh when you have four walks and 13 [strikeouts] in 15 innings ... everybody did well.
"Good baseball game. We made some mistakes that we shouldn't have made. But otherwise, I loved the effort."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.