NEW YORK -- To paraphrase the words of Harry Truman, 'If you can't stand the heat, stay out of pinstripes in Yankee Stadium.'
Pitching in stifling heat and humidity under the watchful eye of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, right-hander Roger Erickson took another step forward Friday night in proving he can take the heat both on the field and in New York's frequently troubled clubhouse.
'I was tired in the bullpen when I was warming up,' Erickson said after tossing a six-hitter over 7 2-3 innings for his third straight victory, a 6-2 victory over the Oakland A's. 'It was unbelievable out there.'
Erickson followed up a strong performance Thursday night by young right-hander Mike Morgan -- allowing New York to stay relatively close in the American League East despite the recent pitching woes of Ron Guidry and Tommy John.
'I've thrown the same since I've been here,' Erickson said after allowing a first-inning run before settling down to retire 15 of 16 batters at one stretch to even his record at 7-7. 'I figured I'd start when I got here (from the Minnesota Twins after a May 12 trade). All I needed was a chance to get into the rotation.
'I've been No. 1 and No. 2 on the staff before (in his career). It makes no difference if you're No. 4 or No. 5 until you get into the playoffs and World Series.'
Roy Smalley and Ken Griffey belted third-inning home runs to help New York to its second consecutive victory over the A's. The Yankees continue to trail first-place Milwaukee by 8 games.
New York got three runs in the third off loser Rick Langford, 7-11. Smalley led off with a lined shot into the right field mezzanine for his ninth homer of the year.
One out later, Willie Randolph walked and Griffey slammed a 2-0 pitch into the right field seats for his fifth homer of the season and a 3-1 lead. Langford, who allowed only 14 homers last year, has allowed 22 home runs in 21 starts this season.
'I didn't have real good stuff; it's been going on all year with everybody,' Langford said. 'I have no solution. There's no reason for the entire staff to go this way.'
The A's scored in the first when Rickey Henderson singled, stole his 86th base in 90 games, and scored on a single by Dwayne Murphy. The A's scored their final run in the seventh on a homer by Jeff Burroughs, his fifth of the year. Rudy May replaced Erickson an inning later and Rich Gossage pitcched the ninth.
New York took a 6-1 advantage in the fifth and knocked out Langford. Butch Wynegar doubled to right and Randolph walked. After the runners advanced on a groundout, Jerry Mumphrey singled to right to drive in both runners and knock out Langford. Bob Owchinko relieved and was greeted with a double to left-center by pinch hitter Lou Piniella.
'When you can pitch, you're in every game,' said Smalley, who was Erickson's teammate with the Twins. 'Roger doesn't know what to do with a five or six-run lead. He never had them with the Twins.
'We've shown we can pitch and play defense. Now we have to show we can hit.'
Oakland manager Billy Martin, on the other hand, could supply no reason for his team's disappointing 38-52 record.
'Our stuff is all right,' said Martin. 'We're just not doing it all right.'
A's slugger Cliff Johnson agreed.
'We can't win for losing,' he said.
One bright spot for Oakland was the fact that Henderson remained far ahead of Lou Brock's record-setting pace for stolen bases in a year. In 1974, Brock recorded his 86th steal in his 125th game.