Curt Schilling prolonged the offensive misery, and things only went downhill for Minnesota from there.
Boston's ace tied a season high with seven strikeouts and the Red Sox hung on for a 4-3 victory over the Twins, who placed All-Star catcher Joe Mauer on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left quadriceps.
"A lot of teams are banged up, too, but it seems like we've been having a guy go down every other day," Mauer said. "Hopefully, this will be the end of it."
Schilling (4-1) allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, and Dustin Pedroia went 3-for-4 with two doubles for the Red Sox, who took two of three from a Twins team that scored just five runs in the series.
"The first six innings, to me, that was as comfortable as he's looked in his delivery all year," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Minnesota starter Sidney Ponson (2-4) gave up four runs, three earned, and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked four.
Schilling said he was eyeing his first complete game in 58 starts before running into trouble in the seventh.
Jason Tyner chased him with a two-run single with two outs. Torii Hunter added an RBI single off Hideki Okajima to cut Boston's lead to 4-3. But AL MVP Justin Morneau grounded out to end the inning, and Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 11 tries.
"I let it get away at that point and that's the part I'm upset about," Schilling said. "I spent 6 2/3 focusing pitch to pitch. I fully intended to get through the end of this ballgame and I let it slip."
Hunter extended his career-high hitting streak to 21 games with an infield single in the sixth, but the Twins are sorely missing some big hitters in the middle of the lineup.
"Offensively, we're fighting it, but we kept playing," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We just have to find a way to score more runs."
Schilling took advantage, cruising through the first six innings to help the Red Sox maintain their 5½-game cushion over the New York Yankees in an AL East race that got a lot more interesting on Sunday with Roger Clemens' announcement that he will pitch in pinstripes this season.
The Yankees made the move to bolster an injury-depleted pitching staff. With Clemens, they hope to compete with Boston's strong rotation. Schilling headlines a group that includes Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield, and the Red Sox (20-10) are off to one of the best starts in franchise history.
"This pitching staff, top to bottom, is going great," Schilling said. "It's one of the reasons why, when you look at this team, you have to feel good about our chances."
The Twins have plenty of questions in their rotation behind ace Johan Santana. Ponson, the 6-foot-1, 258-pound right-hander from Aruba, might be the biggest. They signed him in the offseason in hopes that he could provide some veteran stability at the back of the rotation.
After Ponson struck out the side in the second, the Red Sox went up 2-0 in the third when Pedroia doubled and scored on a single by Kevin Youkilis.
They added two more in the fifth thanks to a throwing error by Ponson.
With runners on first and third and none out, Mike Lowell hit a bouncer back to Ponson. The pitcher hesitated, then tried to start a double play, but his throw to second was low and all the runners were safe.
Ponson smacked himself in the head after the play, and the Red Sox parlayed the error into a two-run inning that made it 4-0, giving Schilling just enough support.
"I tried to rush it toward second instead of a nice, easy throw," Ponson said. "We lost the game because I didn't do the job I was supposed to do."
- Before the game, a scoring change was announced on a play in the ninth inning of Saturday night's game. Twins 3B Nick Punto was initially charged with an error when a ball hit by Youkilis squirted under his glove in the hole between shortstop and third base. On Sunday, Youkilis was credited with a hit, and the error was wiped off Punto's record.