Down two runs in the eighth inning, Boston’s big guns had a chance to produce.
And Daniel Nava, Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Kalish did.
The trio with a combined 113 games of major league experience before this season teamed for a three-run, eighth-inning rally and the surging Red Sox completed a sweep of the stumbling Miami Marlins, 6-5 on Thursday night.
Boston tied the score on a two-run homer by Middlebrooks, who drove in four runs. Kalish then singled, raced to third on a groundout to first and scored on Nava’s go-ahead single up the middle.
“I love to see guys growing and learning and excelling at the same time,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “It’s, I guess, a perfect combination.”
None of the three began the season in the majors.
Middlebrooks got there on May 2 when fellow third baseman Kevin Youkilis went on the disabled list, Nava on May 10 and Kalish last Sunday. Middlebrooks is batting .316 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 38 games while sharing time with Youkilis.
“It really hasn’t been bad” as a part-time player, he said. “I knew that was going to be my role and I just try to accept it.”
Nava is hitting.340 in 35 games and Kalish is hitting. 267 in four games. All three have been aggressive on the basepaths.
“When we were called up here we wanted to gain (the club’s) trust and let them know that we can come through and help them win,” said Middlebrooks, 23. “So it’s good to see it happen.”
The Red Sox won their fifth straight game and seventh in their last eight as they matched their season-best mark of three games over .500.
Alfredo Aceves pitched a perfect ninth for his 18th save in 21 opportunities. Scott Atchison (2-0) allowed one hit over the seventh and eighth.
The Marlins took a lead in all three games but lost them all as they dropped their fourth straight overall and 13th in their last 15.
“This hurt a lot,” Miami manager Ozzie Guillen said. “We’ve got to come back with a winning attitude. Fight for it. Good fighter fight the fight. Bad fighter throw in the towel.”
Miami went ahead 5-3 with two runs in the sixth. Giancarlo Stanton, in a 2-for-31 slump, hit his first homer in 12 games and 15th of the season to make it 4-3. That ended Daisuke Matsuzaka’s streak of 14 consecutive outs and brought in lefty Andrew Miller.
He retired the next batter before giving up a single to Greg Dobbs and a run-scoring double to Omar Infante.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia started the winning rally in the eighth with a double off Randy Choate. Edward Mujica (0-3) came in and served up Middlebrooks’ long, tying shot.
Then Nava, who had six singles in the last two games, lined a clean single to center.
“It’s fun to watch them, especially in a situation like that,” Atchison said. “We hit a two-run homer and then we play a little small ball to go ahead and take the game. It’s fun to watch. It doesn’t matter who’s doing it, but it’s really fun to watch these guys come up and contribute.”
In just his third start of the season since having Tommy John elbow surgery on June 10, 2011, Matsuzaka gave up a leadoff single in the first to Jose Reyes, who went to third on a slow grounder to shortstop Mike Aviles, who got the out at first. Stanton walked and stole second and both runners scored on a single by Dobbs. After Dobbs stole second, he came in on a single by Infante.
Matsuzaka ended the inning by retiring Scott Cousins on a fly ball to center and didn’t allow another runner until Stanton homered.
“We jumped up those few runs and still kind of felt a little shaky,” Stanton said. “It wasn’t like `Hey, we’ve got this.’ And the result ended that way.”
Carlos Zambrano gave up one hit through three innings before Boston tied the game with two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth.
“He gets too anxious with people on base,” Guillen said.
Zambrano hit the first two batters, Cody Ross and Saltalamacchia, in the fourth. Ross scored on a single by Middlebrooks and Saltalamacchia came in on a sacrifice fly by Aviles.
The Red Sox evened the score at 3 on another RBI single by Middlebrooks, driving in Adrian Gonzalez, who led off the fifth with a walk.
NOTES: The Red Sox are 24-14 since May 11, baseball’s third-best record in that span. … Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia returned to the lineup after missing one game as a precaution when he felt discomfort in his right hand on his last at-bat in Tuesday night’s 7-5 win. … Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria spoke to his struggling team before the game. … Miami optioned RHP Chris Hatcher to New Orleans and recalled LHP Mike Dunn from the Triple-A team. … The Red Sox begin a three-game series at home against the Atlanta Braves on Friday night, sending Jon Lester (4-4) to the mound against Jair Jurrjens (0-2). … Anibal Sanchez (3-5) is scheduled to pitch Friday night for Miami in the opener of a three-game home series against Toronto, which plans to start Ricky Romero (7-1).