It wasn't a typical Red Sox win, but Boston used a gutty performance by starter Brad Penny and four hits from Mike Lowell in his first start of the season at designated hitter to hold off the Twins for a 6-5 victory in a Memorial Day matinee at the Metrodome.
Penny, suffering from a sinus infection that upset his stomach, was throwing up between innings.
"He would come out, throw up, laugh, go get them," manager Terry Francona said. "He handled it really well. I actually thought he threw well even if he wasn't sick. But you add on that, that's a pretty good day."
Penny went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits and no walks while striking out seven. The right-hander made a second-inning mistake on a hanging curveball that Michael Cuddyer deposited over the left-field wall, but he was almost flawless outside of that.
"It's [5 1/3 innings] and not technically a quality start; in our minds it was because we know what he was going through between innings and that's impressive," Francona said.
Penny was removed in the sixth after three Twins hits led to two runs. Ramon Ramirez entered in relief and got out of the inning and subsequently pitched a scoreless seventh.
"I don't think it really affected my pitching," Penny said of the illness. "I feel a little lethargic, maybe, but I felt like I had good stuff."
The Red Sox seized control of the game by stringing together five consecutive hits in the third inning -- including a Jason Bay two-run double and Lowell RBI single -- to score three runs off Twins starter Francisco Liriano.
The damage would have been more severe, but Jacoby Ellsbury was picked off first base after a leadoff single extended his hitting streak to 20 games and Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez made a leaping two-out catch at the wall that might have saved a two-run Jason Varitek homer.
A two-out rally in the fourth increased Boston's lead. After retiring the inning's first two batters, Liriano gave up consecutive singles to Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia before Kevin Youkillis brought both home on a line-drive double to left.
Liriano was taken out after the inning, having been battered by Boston's offense to the tune of 11 hits and five earned runs.
Jeff Bailey pushed the lead to 6-3 on a leadoff homer in the eighth off Twins reliever R.A. Dickey, a knuckleballer.
"I just noticed that he was throwing fastballs in fastball counts," Bailey said. "He gets behind 1-0, he was throwing everybody else a fastball, so I just went ahead and sat on a fastball right there."
Bailey got one. The insurance run would prove crucial.
Jonathan Papelbon was summoned to slam the door on a three-run lead in the ninth. With two outs and a runner on, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire inserted Joe Mauer -- who had been given a day off -- as a pinch-hitter. Mauer crushed a fastball over the right-field baggie to cut the Red Sox's lead to one.
"I'm glad he came up where he could hit that ball as far as he wanted -- and he about did -- but it doesn't lose us the game or tie the game," Francona said of Mauer. "Believe me, we knew he was sitting over there. We were watching from the sixth inning on seeing if he was going to get loose, because he is that good."
Lowell went 4-for-5 with two RBIs as the DH. Francona gave struggling David Ortiz the day off against the left-handed Liriano.
"I don't think that the fact that I DH'd equals I get four hits from it, [or] I'll tell Davey he better start playing first," Lowell joked.
Penny improved to 5-1 despite sporting a 5.91 ERA.
"Anytime you go out there and give up three runs in the National League, you can lose," Penny said. "Over here, you have a pretty good chance to win."
Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, Bay and Rocco Baldelli also had multi-hit games for Boston. The Red Sox had 16 hits in total.
"It's one of those games where you look up and you have a bunch of hits and maybe not enough runs," Francona said. "But we stayed at it."
Thor Nystrom is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.