MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
It's baseball time. The playoffs have begun. And this year, baseball's epic ancient rivalry is back - the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox playing each other in the American League Division Series - first time they have faced each other in the postseason since 2004. And adding to the excitement, both teams enter this postseason with a hundred or more wins. Well, let's bring in ESPN baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza. She is in Boston. She is calling Game 1 tonight for ESPN Radio.
Hey there, Jessica.
JESSICA MENDOZA: Oh, my gosh - I'm so excited. This place already - this town is going crazy right now. Are you kidding me? (Unintelligible).
KELLY: I'm guessing Fenway is not a quiet place to be today, no. So I've got to inject immediately just to give people a little sense of this rivalry. I want you to hear a little bit of - this Is Yankees fans chanting right after advancing to play the Red Sox.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting, clapping) We want Boston. We want Boston. We want Boston.
KELLY: Jessica Mendoza, safe to say this is a game that both teams are excited to be in.
MENDOZA: (Laughter) Oh, absolutely. I mean, honestly, they played each other so much throughout the regular season. And the narrative was this. I mean, you knew that the Yankees, pretty much halfway through the season, were going to be in that wildcard game. The Red Sox were going to go on this historic winning pace to win the division. And the hope for every baseball fan was that they'd meet in the division series for really, like, what you could argue the two best teams in baseball - plus the rivalry, plus the fact that there are so many stars. I mean...
MENDOZA: ...The names on both of these teams. It's the matchup of all matchups.
KELLY: Give us a few of them. Just reel off the list for us of who you're watching for.
MENDOZA: Well, Chris Sale, the big pitcher for the Red Sox - I mean, everything lies on his shoulders. I mean, he could win the Cy Young. That's how good - he's one of the best pitchers in both leagues. Then you've got the MVPs in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez - both on the Red Sox - who are the two best hitters, you could argue, in the American League and in all of baseball. And then over the Yankees, you've got Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. You're going to get these two massive - you're going to blink and be like, are the football players? Are they baseball players?
But you're seeing Goliath on one side and not even David. I think it's Goliath versus Goliath, the two best teams that you could argue in baseball with the biggest names going head-to-head.
KELLY: And meanwhile - you're talking players, but let's talk managers for a second. Both these teams are led by first-time managers who used to play for their organizations.
MENDOZA: Yeah. So Aaron Boone was my partner for the last three years, one of my closest friends. He sat right next to me every game on "Sunday Night Baseball." Now he's managing the Yankees. I mean, he went from literally ESPN analyst now managing one of the best teams in baseball. And then Alex Cora, who also worked with me at ESPN, was the bench coach for the World Series-winning Houston Astros in his first year as a bench coach then goes to manage the Red Sox. So yeah, first time managing but watch how they manage. When their hearts are pounding - you talk about that with players, but imagine these two ex-players. They were doing something completely different. And now here they are in the biggest series of their lives, and they're at the helm.
KELLY: And then talk to me about fans. Are we expecting to see great, generous displays of sportsmanship as these games play out?
KELLY: Or are you just watching for a brawl?
MENDOZA: Oh, you think they're yelling loud when the Yankees beat the A's - bring on Boston - for these New York fans. But here in Boston, I mean, you should hear it. I mean, people are talking smack - left, right. I mean, you're a brave person just to walk around town with anything Yankees. People are going to jump you. I mean, it's intense.
KELLY: (Laughter) That is the very brave Jessica Mendoza - ESPN's Jessica Mendoza. She is calling tonight's Yankees-Red Sox game from Fenway.
MENDOZA: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF FOSTER THE PEOPLE SONG, "DON'T STOP (COLOR ON THE WALLS)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.