ST. PETERSBURG — Before the Rays played into Father's Day early Sunday morning, third baseman Sean Rodriguez could just tell they were in for a long one.
"A lot of guys hit a lot of balls really well — obviously to the wrong parts," he said. "You can't say that we didn't have enough chances."
But the Rays couldn't capitalize in a frustrating 4-3, 15-inning loss to the Marlins in front of 22,332 at Tropicana Field.
With the loss, their first to the Marlins in their past nine meetings, the Rays dropped to 31/2 games behind the first-place Yankees in the American League East.
"It was definitely a tough (one)," Rodriguez said.
It certainly wasn't pretty, as the Rays (36-27) committed three errors and allowed three unearned runs. But right-hander James Shields pitched well, and their relievers were gritty, stranding a runner in scoring position in four of the last seven innings, including Burke Badenhop striking out Hanley Ramirez with Jose Reyes on third in the top of the 13th.
But ex-Ray Justin Ruggiano hit a one-out double and scored on Scott Cousins' triple to give Miami the win in a game that was tied for the third-longest in Rays history by innings. It lasted 5 hours, 7 minutes, the Rays' fourth-longest game by time.
Reliever Brandon Gomes, who picked up the loss, said Cousins hit a splitter he hung in the zone.
"One pitch I left up a little bit," Gomes said. "Six inches here and there, and that's the ballgame."
Shields picked up a no-decision but came through with a fine performance, allowing three unearned runs through 72/3 innings, his longest outing since April 21. Shields, who threw a season-high 124 pitches, once again found himself on the other end of some hard luck and now leads the majors with 12 unearned runs allowed.
"I thought James was fantastic," manager Joe Maddon said. "James just kept getting better."
In the second inning, Matt Joyce made a rare error, racing to right-center but letting the ball bounce out of his glove. Cousins came up next and hit a ground-rule double, putting runners on second and third. Reyes came through with a two-run single up the middle to make it 3-0.
"Obviously the errors cost us tonight," Shields said.
The Rays bounced back in the third, as Elliot Johnson led off with a triple and Jose Molina knocked him in with an infield single. Molina brought Tampa Bay within a run with his solo homer in the fifth.
In the seventh, Rodriguez sliced a triple down the rightfield line to score Carlos Peña from first, tying it at 3.
Molina looked as if he had a chance for a walkoff homer in the ninth, but Ruggiano made a leaping catch against the wall in leftfield to end the inning.
The Rays had another golden opportunity in the 10th when Desmond Jennings reached on a one-out throwing error by shortstop Reyes and Joyce hit a bloop single to center. But B.J. Upton hit into an inning-ending double play, with Ramirez making a nice play, tagging third and throwing to first.
"I thought we were very unfortunate," Maddon said. "We hit the ball well in moments that were just outs. It didn't want to work out for us."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.