Memo to the Houston Astros: If you make the World Series again and Brian Duff walks through the gates of Minute Maid Park, expect a long night.
Duff, the Sabres' host on MSG telecasts, is a diehard Astros fan from his days of idolizing Nolan Ryan. He attended Game Three of the 2005 Series, the Astros' 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox in 14 innings that took 5 hours, 47 minutes to play.
And Sunday, he took an early-morning flight to get to Game Five of this year's Fall Classic against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The result? Five hours and 17 minutes later, he saw another classic.
"It was absolutely exhausting," Duff said Tuesday in KeyBank Center when asked what it was like to attend the Astros' 13-12, 10-inning victory. "I can now say I've attended the two longest games in World Series history and both of them were in Houston."
Duff left on a 6:30 a.m. flight to Houston via Charlotte Sunday morning to meet up with Paul Barker, the Sabres box office manager who is an Indiana native who also grew up as an Astros fan. Barker flew to Houston Saturday for Game 4 and his connections in the ticketing world got the pair $250 seats in Section 252 in right field for Game 5.
"When I sat down, I had a very good feeling that in some way i was righting a wrong," Duff said. "In 2005, I was down the line but more to the first-base side. Now I'm sitting there thinking, 'This is pretty close to where Geoff Blum hit the shot to win the game in the 14th.' If I can sit here and put that aside, maybe good things will come this game."
— pbark3 (@pbark3) October 30, 2017
It didn't start that way. When the Astros fell into a quick 4-0 hole facing Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, Duff said he told his wife, Leilon, that he felt he had made a costly mistake and would not have a moment like his wife, a Cubs fan, had last year when her team won the Series.
"My wife can attest to it because I did send her a rather sour text at that point about perhaps this not being money well spent," he said. "She was like, 'Stick with it, it will be fine.' We all were very well aware of what Kershaw was likely to do to us when you're down 4-0 but then when it did start to teeter there, Gurriel's homer completely changed everything."
Houston's Yuli Gurriel belted a three-run homer in the fourth to get the Astros even at 4-4 and start the back-and-forth swings in the game that lasted the rest of the night.
Duff had walked the 100 level of the park after the Dodgers' early outburst and Barker did the same thing in the fourth as the Astros rallied. Barker returned in the fifth and the Dodgers went back in front, left again and the the Astros tied the score again.
"I'm texting him now, which is hilarious because we've gone all that way to the game and we're not sitting together," Duff said. "The people near us are saying, 'Tell him not to come back.' Well he didn't come back. I don't know how many different places he actually watched the game from but he stayed away."
Duff and Barker reunited after the thrilling finish near a stadium escalator. Duff had spent several minutes taking in the scene around him after Alex Bregman's game-winning single.
"I was just absorbing everything," he said. "It was a big exhale and I'm watching people and seeing how they reacted. It was their last home game of the year. You're watching ushers clearly in their 60s or maybe 70s. Police officers. Everyone enjoying the moment.
"What they've endured there is always the prevailing feeling. You're really rooting for people that are proud to call Houston home. There was a lot of that within the stadium."