Dwight Gooden pitched a five-hitter and doubled to start a three-run third-inning rally, leading the New York Mets to a 4-1 victory over the Cubs yesterday in Chicago.

The Mets moved within a half-game of first place in the National League East behind St. Louis, which lost, 6-0, to Philadelphia.

New York will play in Chicago this afternoon and St. Louis will conclude its home series with Philadelphia tonight. If the Mets win and the Cardinals lose, the Mets would be in first place, with the possible players strike set to begin at midnight tonight.

"They're all big wins," Mets Manager Dave Johnson said. "I don't want to make too much of it, I just hope they settle it today."

It was the 11th straight victory -- a club record -- for Gooden (17-3). The only run the Cubs scored off the 20-year-old right-hander came in the fifth inning and was unearned. Gooden lowered his major league-leading earned run average to 1.57.

Gooden walked three batters and struck out six in his 11th complete game of the season. He leads the major leagues with 179 strikeouts.

Gooden doubled with one out in the third off loser Ray Fontenot (4-6). Wally Backman singled and Gooden stopped at third. Tom Paciorek lined out to right as the runners held, but Keith Hernandez singled to left, scoring Gooden. Gary Carter followed with a two-run double.

The game started in a drizzle. "I blanked that out of my mind and I blanked the strike out of my mind," Gooden said. "I just hope they get it settled."

Gooden, who has not lost since Los Angeles defeated him May 25, had been tied with Tom Seaver for the Mets record of 10 straight victories. Seaver set the record in 1969.