BOSTON — A surprising strategy by first-year manager Paul Molitor fit the way the Minnesota Twins have been playing so far this season.
Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval mishandled a throw on a bunt by star Joe Mauer in the ninth inning, and the Twins broke away from Boston 8-4 Thursday for a four-game split.
The Twins trailed 4-0 going into the fifth. It was 4-all in the ninth when Minnesota put runners on first and second with no outs against Koji Uehara (2-3).
Mauer bunted and catcher Blake Swihart threw to third — low, but catchable— and the ball went under Sandoval's glove, allowing Brian Dozier to score the go-ahead run.
"Nobody expected that one," Minnesota's Torii Hunter said. "I think that's why everything went kind of haywire. Rough throw right there and different things like that."
"I don't think anybody in baseball, or TV or anything thought Joe Mauer was going to bunt. He did and caused the havoc right there," he said.
Trevor Plouffe followed with an RBI single. Eduardo Escobar doubled home a run and Shane Robinson had a sacrifice fly off Craig Breslow.
Hunter hit his 200th home run in a Twins uniform and added two singles. Hunter's career 339th homer was a three-run shot.
Kurt Suzuki singled three times, helping Minnesota to its ninth win in 12 games that raised its surprising record to 11 games over .500.
"They might not be looking for it," Molitor said of the bunt. "Realistically, the bunt defense is just trying to get an out."
Swihart hit his first major league homer and Dustin Pedroia also had a solo homer for Boston, which has lost eight of 11.
But it was a bunt that sent the sloppy Red Sox reeling.
"I tried to do everything I could to stop the ball," Sandoval said. "(It got) under my glove."
The Red Sox committed three errors and had at least three runners cut down by questionable baserunning.
"Absolutely," manager John Farrell said when asked if he takes mistakes personally. "That was a poor display of baseball today. Those situations are addressed individually, it's addressed collectively, and we will continue to do so."
Aaron Thompson (1-1) worked one scoreless inning for the victory.
Boston built its early lead on the homers by Swihart and Pedroia, and two unearned runs.
The Twins rallied in the fifth when Hunter homered off a billboard above the Green Monster seats.
In the sixth, Sandoval threw away a two-out grounder for a two-base error and Suzuki singled home the tying run.
Swihart hit his home run completely out of Fenway Park, clearing the Monster seats to make it 3-0 in the third. Pedroia led off the next inning with a drive to left.
Twins starter Tommy Milone, recalled from Triple-A before the game, gave up four runs — two earned — and nine hits in five innings.
Red Sox starter Steven Wright gave up six hits in six innings.
CLIMBING UP THE CHARTS
Hunter was thrilled to be moving up the Twins' all-time HR list.
"It means a lot," he said. "Two hundred with the Twins — that's longevity. You've got to play a long time to do that. I'm happy to go out there and have 200 home runs in this uniform — one by behind (Gary) Gaetti, that's what they told me today."
STOP THE MADNESS
Hanley Ramirez, on second with one out in the seventh, was tagged out by the third baseman on a groundball to third. Xander Bogaerts then singled to right-center and Mike Napoli was cut down easily trying to score all the way from first.
"It was an aggressive decision," Farrell said. "We're forcing the issue there a little bit. Unfortunately, it did not work out."
Twins: Put RHP Ricky Nolasco on the 15-day disabled list because of an injured right ankle he sustained in his previous start. He had a side session on Thursday before the club decided it was best to put him on the DL. "It became apparent rather quickly when he started trying to load off his right side and get some torque created when he needed to push off the rubber," Molitor said. "You could see him start to grimace a little bit. The session didn't last very long."
Red Sox: RHP Justin Masterson, on the 15-day DL with shoulder tendinitis, was scheduled to make his second rehab start Thursday, working for Double-A Portland.
Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (4-3, 2.61 ERA) is scheduled to go against Milwaukee RHP Kyle Lohse (3-6, 6.50) when the Twins open a six-game homestand.
Red Sox: LHP Wade Miley (4-5, 4.97 ERA) is slated to face Oakland LHP Scott Kazmir (2-3, 2.93) when the clubs start a three-game series on Friday at Fenway. Miley was tagged for six runs in four innings, taking the loss last Saturday at Texas.