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Batman Gambit / Sports

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  • In the 2012 World Series, the San Francisco Giants were one strike from winning the series against the Detroit Tigers. Giants closer Sergio Romo had just thrown 5 sliders, a pitch he's known well for, for good reason as his sliders don't spin in the same way as most pitches of that type, making them look like fastballs, to Miguel Cabrera, one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Romo then throws a fastball perfectly across the plate to Cabrera, a pitch Romo almost never throws to right-handers, a pitch that Cabrera could have easily smashed to left field had he seen it coming. Thing is, it's the last pitch Cabrera would have expected, since a fastball is the easiest pitch to hit when you are prepared no matter how fast it is. Since Cabrera was expecting another slider, he let the ball glide past him with a big red bow on it for a called strike three to end the series. The gambit relied completely on Cabrera never expecting a pitch that he could easily hit.
    • A similar situation occurred in the 2006 National League Championship Series. Adam Wainwright faced Carlos Beltrán, who had been known throughout the season for his clutch hitting, with the Cardinals up 3–1, the bases loaded and two out. Tony La Russa contemplated visiting the mound or having coach Dave Duncan do so, but trusted catcher Yadier Molina to call the pitches on his own. Molina changed his mind on the calls, giving Wainwright a "follow me" signal before calling a changeup. Beltrán's concentration was thrown off and he took the changeup looking for a called strike, which also caught La Russa off guard. Beltrán then fouled off the next pitch before Wainwright threw a high curveball that dipped into the zone and froze Beltrán for a called strike three, sending the Cardinals to the World Series. This gambit relied on execution of the signals between Molina and Wainwright and the ability to trick Beltrán into taking a pitch he wouldn't see coming.
  • The Miami Dolphins pulled one off in 1994 against their division rival the New York Jets at the Meadowlands in what is known as the "Fake Spike Game". Miami had a timeout and was down 24–21. They reached the Jets 8-yard line with 38 seconds left after a 10-yard catch by Mark Ingram. Running to the line of scrimmage, Dan Marino nodded to Ingram and yelled "Clock! Clock! Clock!" and motioned that he was going to spike the ball to stop the clock so that Pete Stoyanovich could try a field goal that would most likely force overtime if it was made. The Jets defense, expecting Marino to spike it, relaxed. Marino took the snap; instead he dropped back to pass, while Ingram ran to the corner of the end zone with rookie Jets cornerback Aaron Glenn biting on the fake. With New York caught off-guard (it worked so well that at least five Jets players just stood there), Marino threw to the open Ingram in the front-right corner of the end zone for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown with 22 seconds left. Meanwhile, the Jets lost their next four games that year, and won only four over the next 2 seasons.
    • The Jets enacted revenge on their rivals in the game known as the Monday Night Miracle. Down 37-30 late in the 4th, the Jets were pressing at the Dolphins' goal line in an attempt to tie the game. They brought in back-up offensive lineman Jumbo Elliot as an eligible receiver. Generally, this formation (known as the Jumbo formation, aptly enough) signifies that the offensive team wants more power upfront to pound the ball in on the ground. The Dolphins assumed this was the case and blitzed to stop the run, leaving Elliot wide open in the end zone to make a falling, juggling catch from QB Vinny Testaverde to tie the game at 37. The Jets won in overtime, 40-37.
    • Most trick plays in American Football are a form of this. The play-action pass is a good example. Fake a handoff to the running back, expecting the defense to play as they should against the run: converge on the running back. Meanwhile you, the quarterback, have all the time in the world to pass down the field. Like all true Batman Gambits, this can be ruined spectacularly. An all-out blitz can disrupt a play-action pass, as enough blitzers can get in the backfield to swallow BOTH the QB and RB, or the defenders see the hand-off as a fake and stick to their pass defending assignments.
      • More specifically in this department are trick plays designed to take advantage of defenders doing what they're supposed to do.
      • In the middle screen, seen mostly in the lower levels of the game as college and pro players generally react too quickly for it to work, the offensive linemen give their defensive counterparts token blocks and lent them though where they charge after the quarterback, fading back rapidly. But meantime, the tight end has moved back behind the line, and just when the approaching linemen think they've got the quarterback sacked, he tosses it over the heads to the tight end, who can now run upfield with several blockers to escort him.
      • The Statue of Liberty play also has the same setup, but instead of passing the ball, a wide receiver comes around behind the quarterback at top speed and takes the ball from his cocked armnote . The runner will usually be almost back to the line of scrimmage before the linebackers and defensive backs can react, if they haven't seen it coming either.
      • The delayed draw play, properly done, is sort of the inverse of this. The quarterback drops back as if to pass, and the linemen form a cup around him, leading the linebackers to drop back into pass coverage. However, after a second or two, he hands it off to a back (or just runs it himself), with two linemen escorting him. It usually gains a few yards at least, more if the linebackers are still dropping back when the linemen reach them.
      • In another play seen mostly in high school ball, a team is lined up to take a placekick (either for a field goal or a point-after) when the holder suddenly gets up, grabs the tee and runs towards the sideline saying it's the wrong one. After a second or two of this, as the defense is beginning to relax and get our of their stances, the ball is suddenly snapped to the kicker, who quickly passes it to the holder while his blockers take advantage of catching the defense off guard.note 
      • Lastly there's the little-seen "sucker" play, meant to take advantage of a particularly aggressive (but not very smart) defensive lineman. The offensive lineman blocking him lets the DL drive him back, in the process opening up the hole for the running back to go through that would normally be created by the block.
  • The New England Patriots almost pulled this off against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. Late in the fourth quarter, the New York Giants were running down the clock before scoring and taking the lead. With under a minute left in the game, Bill Belichick tells the defense to let the Giants score the touchdown, in order to give Tom Brady time to score a game-winning touchdown. If not for his receivers dropping crucial passes, Brady might have pulled it off.
    • The Green Bay Packers did the same thing in Super Bowl XXXII, letting the Denver Broncos score late to give Brett Favre a chance to come back and tie the score (betting that the Broncos were deep enough that they would have scored at least a field goal anyway, and holding them to that would have drained the clock too much). The gambit didn't work there either.
  • Oakland A's manager Dick Williams pulled off a masterful one in Game 3 of the 1972 World Series against Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench. Bench was red-hot at the plate and had worked the count against A's closer Rollie Fingers to 3 balls and 2 strikes. Williams called time and spoke to Fingers and catcher Gene Tenace. When Tenace returned to the plate, he held out his glove to indicate Fingers throw deliberately wide to walk Bench. Bench reacted just as Williams expected, relaxing at the plate and awaiting a free pass to first base. Tenace then dropped back into his crouch as Fingers fired a slider over the outside corner for strike 3.
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  • Really, the vast majority of sports where one compete directly against their opponents are going to feature this as a matter of routine. In basketball, a pump fake is to get the defender to jump to block the shot he thinks is coming, allowing one to either dribble around him or draw a foul. In hockey, players will wind up as if they were going to take a slap shot to get goalies to react or defenders to hit the ice in an attempt to block it, only to hold back, and instead pass the puck to an open teammate with the defense too committed to blocking the threatened shot to react. Defenses in football will clearly show certain coverages and blitzes, only to run others, with the hopes of getting the offense to react a certain way, and QBs will pump fake hoping to get defensive backs to take a step in one direction, before throwing a real pass in another direction. About the only sport this doesn't happen in is golf, where the competitors are competing indirectly against each other by competing directly against the golf course, and naturally, it's difficult to play head games against dirt and grass.
  • The Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins) won their first World Series thanks to one of these from Edgar Rentería. With the bases loaded and two out in the 11th inning of Game 7, Rentería went up to bat against the Cleveland Indians' workhorse pitcher, Charles Nagy. Knowing Nagy relied heavily on his breaking ball, Rentería flinched at the first one he saw, hoping to goad Nagy into throwing another breaking ball right down the middle. When Nagy took the bait, Rentería smacked it over Nagy's head and into center field, sending the winning run home for a walk-off win.


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