The Oakland Athletics nearly got even.

The losers of Game 1 on a bottom-of-the-ninth-inning home run by Kirk Gibson, the A's beat Los Angeles 2-1in Game 3 of the World Series on Mark McGwire's ninth-inning homer Tuesday night.

"That's one," A's Manager Tony La Russa said. "Now, we need three more."

The A's still trail in the Series 2-1, but by winning Game 3, they at least stopped the bleeding and averted almost certain defeat. No team has come back from 0-3 in a seven-game Series.

The Dodgers squandered a bases-loaded, none-out opportunity in the sixth inning with the score tied 1-1, and that was where the game turned.

"That definitely picked the team up," McGwire said. "That kept us in it. They could have blown us out right there."

The A's will use their best pitcher, Dave Stewart, in Game 4 Wednesday night as they try to really get even. Stewart, 21-12, gave up three runs over eight innings in Game 1. The Dodgers will go with rookie Tim Belcher, who lasted only two innings in the opener.

Rick Honeycutt threw two hitless innings of relief for the A's, and McGwire, who hit 32 homers during the season, launched his game-winner with one out in the ninth off Jay Howell.

Just as Gibson had homered off the A's top reliever, Dennis Eckersley, McGwire faced the Dodgers' bullpen ace. And he added a taste of defeat to a postseason of insult and embarrassment for Howell.

Howell was thrown out of a playoff game for putting pine tar on the ball, then was suspended for two games. He was belittled first by the New York Mets' David Cone as a high school pitcher, then by the A's Don Baylor, a former teammate, as a guy who couldn't get anybody out. And now this.

Instead of wearing No. 50 on his back, he might be wearing 86.

"I have no excuses," Howell said. "I just made a bad pitch. I tried to get a high fastball by him."

Howell came in to start the ninth. The first batter he faced was Jose Canseco, who led the majors with 42 homers during the season. Howell sawed the bat off in Canseco's hands, and he was out on a popup to second.

That brought up McGwire, hitless in nine previous World Series at-bats. He had struck out twice already Tuesday night, and the Dodgers had been getting him out on fastballs.

"In the World Series, everything gets blown out of proportion," McGwire said. "McGwire hasn't got a hit. Lansford hasn't got a hit. It's two games. We're all right."

The count went to 2-2 on McGwire, and he fouled a pitch straight back. He fouled off two more Howell fastballs before hitting a line drive that just cleared the fence in left field.

Did he know it was out right away?

"I was sure hoping so, because I wasn't going to run," McGwire said. "I had my arms up in the air. I guess it just made it over. I'm glad it did."

The Dodgers lost two players to injury early in the game - starting pitcher John Tudor and cleanup hitter Mike Marshall - and when the sixth inning came, Dodgers Manager Tom Lasorda said he was afraid to use gimpy Gibson as a pinch-hitter for Jeff Hamilton. He said he didn't want to run out of players too early in the game.

"If I use Gibson, I have to use three players, and I didn't want to get caught short," Lasorda said. "I felt Hamilton could do the job ... Gibson told me he was ready to hit any time I wanted him."

Gibson has not started in the Series because of injuries to both legs. Tudor went out in the second inning with a sore elbow, and Marshall had to leave in the fourth with a stiff back. The Dodgers said Marshall would be ready to play in Game 4, but they didn't know the extent of Tudor's injury.

The A's scored a run on Ron Hassey's RBI single in the third, breaking a string of 18 scoreless innings dating back to Canseco's grand slam in the second inning of Game 1.

The Dodgers tied the score on Franklin Stubbs' RBI double in the fifth, then chased A's right-hander Bob Welch, a former Dodger, when they loaded the bases the next inning.

Danny Heep, who had come in for Marshall, led off with a double, John Shelby singled and Mike Davis walked. That ended Welch's evening, and Greg Cadaret and Gene Nelson got three quick outs on just five more pitches.

The Dodgers had only two hits after the sixth, and they stranded 10 baserunners in the game.