AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And it's World Series time. Tonight, the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals are playing game one in Kansas City. It's a matchup of two playoff upstarts. The Royals and Giants are both wildcards, meaning they didn't win their divisions during the regular season. But they've dominated their postseason opponents. The Royals are in the World Series for the first time since 1985. The Giants, meanwhile, are trying to win their third title in just five years.
NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is in Kansas City. Hey there, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: So let's start with the pitching 'cause I take it both teams have extremely strong bullpens. And what does that tell us about how this series might unfold?
GOLDMAN: You know, Audie, if it follows the script here, the seventh inning in these games is when we'll see the start of Kansas City's fearsome threesome - three relief pitchers who've been dominant - Kelvin Herrera in the seventh inning, Wade Davis in eighth inning, Greg Holland is the closer in the ninth inning. And you can almost imagine opponents locking arms in a forest and chanting, Herrera, Davis and Holland, oh my. They've been so good.
It's said that Kansas City games have shrunk to six innings instead of nine. As in, if you're playing the Royals, you have to do your damage and get a lead by the end of the sixth because you're not going to get it off those three. But if any team can break the pattern, Audie, it has to be the Giants. They have come from behind so many times, showed such an ability to survive in this postseason.
CORNISH: It seems like San Francisco's bullpen doesn't have the same aura, right? But they've been pretty good, too.
GOLDMAN: Oh, definitely. You know, you don't get this far without great relief pitchers. And the Giants have them - Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and, another weapon, the Giants' great manager Bruce Bochy. He'll mix and match his relievers and put the right guy in at the right time and not think twice about taking out a reliever if he's struggling like Casilla was against St. Louis in the final game of the National League Championship Series. It was a move that helped San Francisco win the game and clinch the series.
CORNISH: Now people seem to have really fallen in love with the Royals' sort of team story. And I gather a lot of this has to do with the style of play which is seen as a kind of throwback. Explain.
GOLDMAN: It is. You know, it's called small ball - you know, getting hits, advancing the runner with a bunt and hitting sacrifice flies, pushing across runs that way. And the Royals are incredibly speedy on the bases. They're the top team in stolen bases during the regular season. So that has its appeal, you know. They're not just out there bashing home runs - which they can do. They've shown they can do in the postseason.
But you know, the Giants have shown they can play the same way. And both teams are so opportunistic. They wait for opponents to make mistakes while they have made few, if any, during this postseason. We could have some long games as these guys wait each other out.
CORNISH: Finally, Tom, a little bit random but these teams aren't just fighting for a world title, right? They're actually fighting over a song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T STOP BELIEVIN'")
JOURNEY: (Singing) Don't stop believing. Hold on to that feeling.
CORNISH: This song by, of course, Journey. What's this fight all about?
GOLDMAN: It gives fans something to get all ruffled about. The battle over the Journey song "Don't Stop Believin'" - both fan groups claim it and sing it. And just as an aside, Audie, so do I before these interviews.
GOLDMAN: Also the popular singer Lorde has a hit song called "Royals" inspired by Kansas City Royals' great George Brett. Two San Francisco radio stations are boycotting the song during the series. A Kansas City station has countered by playing it today every hour on the hour. So this musical battle gives the fans a stake in the series, too.
CORNISH: That NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You bet.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.