Darryl Strawberry hit three home runs, drove in five runs and scored four times today, leading the New York Mets to a 7-2 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The victory was the third straight and ninth in 11 games for the Mets. It enabled New York to gain first place in the National League East by a half-game over the St. Louis Cardinals, who lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 9-1, in what could be the last day of games before a players strike. The Mets are 62-42 and the Cardinals are 61-42.

New York's Ed Lynch (9-5) won his fifth straight, giving up seven hits over 7 2/3 innings.

Strawberry hit a three-run homer in the first inning and bases-empty homers in the third and seventh, giving him 15 homers for the season. He was intentionally walked in the third and singled in the ninth.

Strawberry became the fourth Met to hit three homers in a game. The others were Jim Hickman in 1965, Dave Kingman in 1976 and Claudell Washington in 1980. Strawberry has hit two homers in a game three times this season and eight times in his three-year career.

"It's a shame to have a day like this and know that you may be on strike tomorrow," said Strawberry.

He rated the performance the "best of my career" and added he wasn't looking for the long ball. "I just wanted to make contact. I was relaxed and doing everything perfectly," he said.

In the first inning, Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter walked before Strawberry hit a 2-2 pitch into the right field bleachers off Derek Botelho (0-1).

With two out in the third, Strawberry homered to center field on a 1-2 pitch. Strawberry's final homer came with two out in the seventh on the first pitch from Ron Meridith. It was the first three-homer game in the National League this season.

New York also scored on Danny Heep's two-run double in the fifth.

Strawberry did have a defensive lapse that allowed the Cubs to score in the eighth. With one out and Ron Cey at second, Bob Dernier flied out Strawberry. Strawberry thought it was the third out and failed to throw the ball to the infield as Cey scored.

"I was excited," Strawberry said. "Maybe I was so excited that's why I forgot there was only one out in the eighth inning. I guess I was thinking of my next at bat."

The Cubs' other run came on Jody Davis' 10th homer in the fifth.