ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays started Wednesday with a rare burst of offense and ended it with a familiar result.
The Rays squandered their best inning in eight games and an 11-strikeout performance by David Price to lose their ninth in a row, 5-4 to the Marlins at Tropicana Field.
"A rough night for us," third baseman Evan Longoria said.
All around, even on a night that began with promise in front of an announced crowd of 10,897.
Ben Zobrist blasted a two-run homer to right in the first inning, and Longoria followed with his sixth homer of the season, just above the 162 Landing in left. With their first back-to-back home runs since May 26 in Toronto, the Rays (23-37) equaled their combined scoring output for the previous six games in only three at-bats.
Then an offense coming off the worst four-game stretch in club history returned to its drought. The Rays grounded into inning-ending double plays in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings and stranded Matt Joyce at third in the sixth.
Their best opportunity came at the end, with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth. David DeJesus cut the deficit to 5-4 on a groundout, and Zobrist hit a chopper to first with the speedy Kevin Kiermaier at third.
"I thought he was going," Marlins closer Steve Cishek said.
Instead of forcing a play at the plate to try to tie it, Kiermaier stayed. James Loney popped out two batters later to end the game. The Rays are hitless in their past 31 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
"Right guys in the right moments at the end of the game," manager Joe Maddon said. "It just did not work out."
Miami capitalized with a four-run third inning fueled by one defensive error.
Longoria fielded a grounder and ran to catch Marcell Ozuna on his way to third for what should have been the inning's final out. Longoria applied the tag but dropped the ball to extend the inning.
No. 7 hitter Donovan Solano made the Rays pay, blasting Price's next pitch for a three-run homer — the first of his season and just the sixth of his career — to give the Marlins a 5-3 lead.
Price was otherwise solid in his 71/3 innings, allowing nine hits and no walks. Only one of his five runs was earned.
"Outside of one pitch to Solano, he was pretty darn good," Maddon said.
But the result was another loss, Price's fifth of the season, to extend the team's longest losing streak since 2009 and the second-longest skid in the majors this year. The Rays' loss combined with a Cubs win over the Mets gave Tampa Bay the majors' worst record.
"We're running out of time," Maddon said. "We just can't permit those games to get away any more."
Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MBakerTBTimes.