Shields "pitched great again," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He gave up that one run. Once again, he utilized all his pitches. He deserved to win."
In losing, the Rays suffered their first sweep of three or more games at home under manager Joe Maddon. The Marlins also took their sixth sweep of the Rays in the history of the budding Interleague rivalry.
Sunday should have been Shields' day.
The 25-year-old right-hander gave the Rays his sixth consecutive quality start (six innings pitched, three or fewer earned runs) by allowing just one run on five hits in seven innings while walking three and striking out eight. Unfortunately for Shields, he has not received a decision in his last three starts despite allowing just four runs in 24 innings. He has exited each of his nine starts this season with the game tied or the Rays ahead.
"I go out there every time and do my best," Shields said. "You can't control some of the things that happen in the ballgame. That was a tough series for us."
Shields even managed a smile when asked if he had added dents to the garbage can next to his locker, which teammate Jonny Gomes had used while participating in the Legends of Wrestling Night at Tropicana Field on Friday night.
"I don't really think about [not getting a win]," Shields said. "I just go out there and try to do my best and try to keep the team in the ballgame."
Brian Stokes started the eighth for the Rays, and Dan Uggla greeted him with a single before Stokes hit Hanley Ramirez with a pitch.
"I didn't like the hit batter," Maddon said. "I didn't feel good about it."
That feeling, coupled with the hope for a ground ball, prompted Maddon to make a change. Shawn Camp took over, and Miguel Cabrera singled to score one, leaving runners at first and second.
Josh Willingham then hit the ground ball the Rays wanted. Third baseman Josh Wilson fielded the ball and stepped on the bag for the first out of what appeared to be a room-service triple play. He then threw low, and second baseman Ty Wigginton couldn't handle the throw, leaving runners at first and second.
"It crossed my mind," said Camp, when asked if he thought they might turn the triple play. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind. I guess it was just a situation that happened. Willingham's a great hitter. Any time you can get him to roll a ball over to third base, you feel like you're doing your job. But it was a tough play, I guess."
Wilson couldn't say if the triple play was a lock.
"I knew that we should have at least gotten two," Wilson said. "A play like that, I don't think you ever expect to get a triple play. You never know. If I make a good throw, there's probably a good chance that Ty makes that play and you end up with three outs right there. But I threw low, and we only ended up with one. It really cost us."
Wilson could not explain what caused him to make the bad throw.
"[It] just came out low," Wilson said. "I don't know if I rushed it a little bit, maybe that was it. Or maybe it was just a bad grip or something. It was one of those things, I threw it in the dirt and Ty couldn't pick me up. Tough play for him, and unfortunately, it ends up leading to some runs."
Jeremy Hermida then doubled down the right-field line to score two and put the Marlins up, 4-3, once again snatching a victory out of the much-deserving hands of Shields.
"That's baseball; it's sports," Camp said. "Stuff like that happens. It's another example of how good [Shields] is, carrying us to the eighth with a 3-1 lead. [It was an] unfortunate thing that occurred. Things like this happen."
Maddon said the Rays will continue to try and shore up the leaks and that they would not let Sunday's loss dampen their enthusiasm.
"We played well enough to win to a certain point, then we blew it late," Maddon said. "We could've added more runs, we could've make a play, could've pitched better."
But Shields did all he could -- again.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.