LOS ANGELES — After going hitless in his first two at-bats, Rámon Laureano singled. Feeling emboldened, he choked up on the bat and broke a ninth-inning tie with a two-run homer.
That gave the Oakland Athletics a 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night in a matchup of West division champions. The A's moved within a game of Minnesota in pursuit of the No. 2 seed in the American League playoffs.
"I guess it's going to keep changing for everybody for these next six games. We're just trying to win and win and win, and we don't care who we play," Laureano said. "We're just trying to keep competing, get that winning culture going into the postseason."
Laureano also had an RBI single in the seventh and made a diving catch in center field. He moved his hands much higher on the bat in the ninth.
"I practice choking up every single day," he said. "I just decided, you know what, just change something and I did. Good things happened and hopefully it carries on."
Edwin Rios, who replaced Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner in the sixth, homered in his first at-bat in the eighth, tying it 4-all. It was the first run given up in 19 appearances this season by Jake Diekman (1-0), who had a 22-inning scoreless streak that dated to last Sept. 16.
"You almost feel like you're getting a break with Turner coming out of the game, and Rios has been so good for them," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "But expecting a home run there is a shock, really."
Stephen Piscotty singled in the ninth off Blake Treinen (3-3). With two outs, Laureano homered to the lower left-field seats, clocking a cardboard cutout in the face for a 6-4 lead.
Liam Hendriks retired the side in the ninth for his 14th save.
Oakland starter Sean Manaea allowed three runs and six hits in six-plus innings. He struck out four and walked one.
The A's took a 3-0 lead in the first off Joe Kelly, who came out of the bullpen to start and promptly gave up consecutive doubles to Tommy La Stella and Robbie Grossman and walked Marcus Semien — the first three batters he faced. It was Kelly's first start since June 1, 2016, at Baltimore.
Grossman's RBI double to deep left-center scored Oakland's first run. Mark Canha's sacrifice fly brought home Grossman on center fielder Cody Bellinger's throwing error that also allowed Semien to score.
"Those curveballs that were hit were not terrible pitches," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "It's an elite pitch when it's right."
The Dodgers closed to 3-2 on Max Muncy's two-run drive in the third, giving him homers in back-to-back games.
Laureano's RBI single extended Oakland's lead to 4-2 in the seventh. His diving catch in center robbed Mookie Betts to end the Dodgers' half of the inning. Betts went 0 for 4, snapping his nine-game hitting streak.
The Dodgers cut their deficit to 4-3 on Bellinger's 12th homer, a shot to right field leading off the seventh that chased Manaea.
Julio Urías made his first relief appearance of the season, entering in the third inning. Not starting seemed to work for the left-hander, who has struggled in the first inning of games. He gave up one run and two hits in six innings, struck out five and walked two.
"We view him as a starter but there is a little slow ramp-up when he makes starts," Roberts said. "Tonight was really good from the outset. I love how Julio has embraced whatever we've asked him."
Athletics: INF-OF Chad Pinder (strained right hamstring) hasn't hit on the field yet and although he feels good, Melvin said he can't guarantee Pinder will play when the team returns home.
Athletics: RHP Mike Fiers (6-2, 4.67 ERA) starts the series finale Thursday. He has a 0.90 ERA and opponents batting average of .145 over the first two innings of a game, and a 6.88 ERA and .340 opponents average from the third inning on.
Dodgers: RHP Walker Buehler (1-0, 3.86) starts in a postseason test after being activated off the injured list. A blister on his right index finger has necessitated two trips to the IL and limited him to just 7 2/3 innings in the last month.