Tommy Tutone lineup falls short of being a hit for Rays
Maddon, Tampa Bay have fun with inadvertent homage to '80s classic
DETROIT -- There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the Tommy Tutone lineup. That was not the problem.
The Tampa Bay Rays, coming into Thursday night, had won the last five straight and 14 of the last 21 games. They appeared to be on their way to salvaging an entire season.
It was in this spirit that Rays manager Joe Maddon Thursday happened upon the lineup that matched the Tommy Tutone oldie, a big power-pop hit in 1981, entitled "867-5309/Jenny."
The first seven spots in the Tampa Bay lineup and their corresponding position numbers matched the 867-5309.
Desmond Jennings, CF (8).
Ben Zobrist, SS (6).
Matt Joyce, LF (7).
Evan Longoria, 3B (5).
James Loney, 1B (3).
Vince Belnome, DH (0).
Kevin Kiermaier, RF (9).
The exact numerical replica of the song in the Tampa Bay lineup was "an accident," Maddon said, but he seized on it, anyway. Before the game, the sounds of "867-5309," poured out of the visiting manager's office at Comerica Park. It also turned out that, based on the success of that song, Tommy Tutone (the name of the band, not the lead singer) had cut two other versions. One was acoustic, one was a Christmas version. The Christmas version obviously required a change in lyrics, but that happened.
"We went to the Tommy Tutone lineup as it turned out," Maddon said. "Really an accident, but we wanted more lefties in there. I mean this guy [Detroit starter Max Scherzer] is so good, you can put all lefties or all righties in there and this guy can beat both sides. We've not had a lot of success against him or their pitching staff in general. We've just got to do better against their pitchers. We've played a lot of good games against the Tigers over the last couple of years but they normally outpitch us."
There were a few twists. Belnome, batting sixth, had just been called up and was making his Major League debut. Kiermaier had been batting ninth much more often than seventh but he had hit well and moving him up made sense. Both are left-handed hitters, so that worked, too, on paper.
Anybody within earshot of the Tampa Bay clubhouse had a big Tommy Tutone day. This song, "867-5309/Jenny" remains an extraordinarily catchy musical effort. To this day, there are people calling 867-5309 and asking for Jenny. This is not a recommended activity; it is merely a measurement of a pop hit's staying power. So when the lineup matched the song, Maddon, the music lover, the man of eclectic tastes, was fine with that.
"I was actually very pleased," the manager said. "Great song. I actually found out there is a Christmas version, and also an acoustical version, which I downloaded. So now it will be on my Christmas playlist. Tommy Tutone's Christmas version of '867-5309.' It's outstanding.
"If we post this lineup, if it happens, I really would like us to play this as the team is being announced. Why wouldn't you?"
What this song/story undoubtedly required was a victory. That didn't happen. The "867-5309" lineup came out in the first inning and scored one run off Scherzer. Maybe this was the breakthrough against the 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner that the Rays needed.
Maybe not. Jennings and Zobrist hit back-to-back screaming line drives in the third, but they were caught, with a dive in the first instance and a leap in the second.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay starter, Erik Bedard, was playing the role of victim. Bedard gave up four runs before retiring a batter and eventually allowed five runs in the first and six runs over the first two innings before Maddon mercifully removed him from the contest.
Scherzer, on the other hand, with a comfortable cushion of runs, reached up and grabbed the top of his form. He allowed one hit after the first inning. He was splendid through his eight innings of work. He would have been beaten anybody on this night.
"We came out pretty nice in the first inning, I thought we had pretty good at-bats against Scherzer in general tonight," Maddon said. "But when you put up a five-spot, that's been part of our offensive woes. It's really difficult to fight back against really good guys.
"We came out good. I liked it. There was great energy in the dugout. Overall, we hit some balls well, but it's just hard to beat that guy here under those circumstances."
The record will show that the Rays were beaten by the Tigers, 8-1. It was not the fault of the Tommy Tutone lineup, or "867-5309," or Jenny, for that matter.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.