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Robin Ventura plays the gambler, and his hunch pays off

Carlos Sanchez's three-run triple in the 10th was the difference in the White Sox's win over the Tigers. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

DETROIT -- Even as the vultures circle over Robin Ventura's head, the Chicago White Sox manager remains defiant.

A vocal portion of the White Sox's fan base has determined that the team's losing ways are primarily his fault, yet Ventura refuses to abide by conventional wisdom.

So when the Detroit Tigers were rallying in the 10th inning Thursday, with the game-tying run at second base and the game-winning run at first, Ventura made the call to move each runner one base closer to scoring.

In ordering the intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera, Ventura also looked to be writing his ticket to harsh criticism if the Tigers walked away with the victory on a single. But the White Sox got out of the mess when Josh Wilson struck out against closer David Robertson to end the 8-7 victory. Wilson was only in there because he replaced Victor Martinez as a pinch runner in the ninth inning.

Even as the roll of the dice paid off, Ventura didn't see it as bravado, just the proper call to make statistically.

"I mean it's always risky just because you put the winning run at second, but you don't tug on Superman's cape too often," Ventura said.

Ventura saw no need to tempt fate with a hitting machine like Cabrera poised to be the hero, and Robertson had no issue with the gameplan either.

"I want to win the game, so I took the bat out of the best hitter in the game right now," Robertson said. "I'm not going to disagree with that one."

Even as he struggled in the inning, giving up two runs on three hits, Robertson had no problem dispatching Wilson on four pitches.

"Wilson might get me some other day," Ventura said, as the postgame conversation veered toward the criticism that was being readied. "He didn't get me today."

By no means does the successful-yet-risky strategy mean Ventura's days of being criticized harshly are over. That would only happen if his strategy catapulted the White Sox toward some winning baseball from now until the end of the season. And even then it might not end because of the nearly three months the team spent floundering in a season that started with so much promise.

But it is clear that Ventura won't panic or change his personality when the going gets tough. Of all the traits a manager needs, being a steadying influence is high on the list.

Ventura even tried to downplay the move, saying the coaching staff did the same thing last weekend when the Texas Rangers were in Chicago and Prince Fielder was at the plate. On Sunday, Ventura did elect to walk Fielder in the 10th inning, but the go-ahead run was already on base and first base wasn't occupied.

The reality is that the White Sox did win Thursday thanks to their offense, which has been dreadful all season. And a big three-run triple in the 10th inning came off the bat of light-hitting Carlos Sanchez, who limped into the plate appearance with a batting average barely over .160.

The White Sox's offense has started to come of life lately, although there have been short stretches before when it seemed like the team's collective hitting had started to turn a corner.

With 10 hits Thursday, the White Sox have now delivered double digit hits in four of the last five games. Before that run, they didn't have double-digit hits in their previous 10 games.

"I'm very happy for this game, for what I was able to do today because my offense hasn't been good but now it is getting better," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "I got the big hit today for the team and it's important for me and the team also because we won the game."

Getting offense from the No. 9 spot in the order will also make a manager look smart.

"Yeah, everybody is pulling for [Sanchez]," Ventura said. "You feel good for him that he got a couple of hits today. He has been playing great defense. We turned a couple of double plays there with him, and they show up big any time you are keeping them from adding on or getting close to you. Everybody is feeling good for Sanchy right now."

Ventura has always made sure that the credit goes to the players on the field. That won't change, either, even as the heat around him rises and his good days are viewed through the prism of a terrible season.

"Sometimes you have to take risks with that and today was one of those days," Ventura said. "I've seen enough of Miggy to realize he's the best hitter in the game."