ST. PETERSBURG -- Scott Cousins said that he hoped to provide the Marlins with a spark after he was called up from the minors. Consider it done. The outfielder on Saturday drove in the go-ahead run with a 15th inning triple, ending the longest Marlins game in nine years with a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Cousins also doubled and singled as the Marlins ended a three-game losing streak while improving their record in extra innings this season to 6-1.
"Hopefully I can be that piece that gets the cylinders running," Cousins said.
The marathon ended after Justin Ruggiano reached on a one-out double off Rays reliever Brandon Gomes and scored easily on Cousins’ three-bagger into the right field corner.
It was the longest game for the Marlins since they lost in 20 innings to the St. Louis Cardinals on April 27, 2003, and it was only the ninth time in franchise history that they played a game of 15 innings or longer.
"I think this was a really big win and it could be a turning point for us," said Heath Bell, who struck out the side in the 15th to preserve the win and record his 14th save.
Saturday’s game was so long -- more than five hours -- that actually ended early Sunday morning. Bell was far from the only reliever to contribute for the Marlins.
The Marlins used five pitchers in relief of starter Anibal Sanchez, with Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb each contributing three scoreless innings on the mound.
"I didn't want to walk off that field with my head down," said Webb, who received the win. "So I had to rear back and make pitches one pitch at a time, and it worked out."
The victory for the Marlins ended an eight-game losing streak to the Rays.
The Marlins struck early, scoring an unearned run in the first inning on Sean Rodriguez’s throwing error and two more in the second on Jose Reyes’ 2-run single to left off James Shields.
Cousins, who was called up Friday from Triple A New Orleans, started in center and made an impact offensively. He doubled in the second and singled in the fourth.
But the Marlins, after being one-hit Friday, didn’t take greater advantage of several scoring opportunities early. They put two men aboard with one out in each the fourth and fifth innings but produced zilch.
Shields hung around until the eighth when he finally ceded to the bullpen after throwing 124 pitches. None of the three runs he gave up was earned.
The Rays began chipping away in the third.
After Elliot Johnson tripled to start the third, Jose Molina’s infield hit drove him in for the Rays’ first run. Molina homered in the fifth to make it 3-2.
Sanchez and the Marlins carried their thin lead into the seventh when Carlos Pena singled to start the inning. After Steve Cishek took over for Sanchez, Miami native Rodriguez tripled down the right field line with two outs to tie it 3-3.
The Rays threatened in the 10th when they put two aboard with one out. But Hanley Ramirez fielded B.J. Upton’s grounder, stepped on third for one out, and threw across the diamond to complete the inning-ending double play.
Reyes tripled off the top of the wall with two outs in the 13th. But former Marlins reliever Burke Badenhop struck out Ramirez to end the inning.