Even with a two-run deficit in the eighth inning of the 161st game of a 111-loss season, the Oakland Athletics were still fighting.
Their manager loved to see that unceasing fire stay lit in an awfully dark year.
Shea Langeliers hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the A's five-run eighth inning, leading Oakland to a 7-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.
Zack Gelof homered and added two late RBI singles for the A's, who earned their fourth victory in 16 games on the penultimate day of their franchise's worst season since 1916.
Oakland could have been crushed after Joe Boyle's no-hit bid ended with LA's three-run rally in the seventh, but nobody gave up.
"These guys have competed, and they've gotten better," A's manager Mark Kotsay said. "Tonight showed ... in Game 161, going behind, the grit, the grind, the fight that's in that room, the belief. These young players are starting to understand that confidence matters, and they're starting to gain that."
Logan O'Hoppe hit a two-run homer in the Angels' three-run seventh off Boyle (2-0), who had thrown six hitless innings for Oakland in his third big league appearance.
But the Angels' bullpen promptly blew a two-run lead when four straight A's reached to begin the eighth, capped by Gelof's RBI single that chased Ben Joyce (1-1). Jose Soriano then balked in the tying run before Langeliers' two-out shot to right.
With Shohei Ohtani in the dugout for the first time since his elbow surgery, the Angels dropped to 16-38 since the trade deadline in their eighth straight losing season and ninth consecutive non-playoff season.
"Tough way to go tonight, and a tough loss," manager Phil Nevin said.
Boyle faced the minimum 18 batters and allowed just one walk through six innings while continuing to provide a rare spot of hope for a franchise with the majors' worst record and the increasing possibility of relocation to Las Vegas.
"An exceptional outing, to take a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and really for the first six to just completely dominate a lineup," Kotsay said. "And then to walk off with an L hanging over you, but to have your teammates pick you up and have a big inning, it was fun to watch."
Acquired from Cincinnati on July 31, Boyle got promoted in mid-September and promptly threw 15 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run over three starts before Los Angeles finally got to him.
"Ever since he came up, he's been really consistent," Langeliers said of Boyle. "He's attacking the zone, and he's got good stuff."
Nolan Schanuel drew a leadoff walk in the seventh for the Angels, reaching base for the 29th consecutive game to begin his career. He tied Enos Slaughter (1938) for the third-longest such streak in major league history.
Brandon Drury then got the Angels' first hit with a one-out double that barely eluded diving center fielder Esteury Ruiz. Mike Moustakas drove in Schanuel with a flyout.
"Obviously tough in that seventh," Kotsay said. "You get a play made maybe, and you never know what happens, but that's baseball."
O'Hoppe followed with the 14th homer of his standout season, matching the Angels' franchise record for homers by a rookie catcher despite playing in only 50 games. O'Hoppe was downbeat after the loss, vowing to work relentlessly over the offseason to improve.
"It's how I'm going to spend every second this winter," O'Hoppe said. "It's going to be all focused on having a better result next year. ... I'm going to do everything I can, because this is not fun."
Ruiz stole his 66th base of the season in the eighth, tying the AL single-season record for a rookie set by Kenny Lofton in 1992.
Ohtani was back with the Angels for the first time since his surgery on his pitching elbow Sept. 19. He received the Angels' team MVP award before the game amid several standing ovations.
Ohtani is in the final year of his contract with the Angels, so the weekend carries added weight for the teammates and fans who don't know whether he will be back in Anaheim next season. Ohtani cleared out his locker at the Big A during a game on Sept. 15 after getting test results that determined he would need surgery.
JP Sears (5-13, 4.49 ERA) will start the season finale for Oakland. The Angels haven't announced a starter.
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