Rookie Rick Aguilera pitched seven strong innings, got two hits and drove in a run as the Mets defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-2, last night in New York for their ninth straight victory.

The Mets, who won nine straight earlier in the season, have won 15 of their last 17 games and 30 of 37. They maintained their one-game lead in the National League East over St. Louis, which beat Pittsburgh, 6-5.

Aguilera (6-3) gave up seven hits, struck out eight and walked none before giving way to Jesse Orosco, who came on with none out and the bases loaded in the eighth. Orosco allowed Ozzie Virgil's sacrifice fly en route to his 13th save.

Earlier this season, Orosco had some elbow problems and struggled. "He's always been my No. 1," Mets Manager Davey Johnson said. "I might have babied him a little too much earlier. He had a time, earlier on in the season, when he was successful on only about half his save situations. He wasn't winning the matchups he would normally win. I told him a while back that I was going to overwork him in the stretch."

Aguilera is 5-1 in his last seven starts. The right-hander lost his bid for his first major league shutout with two outs in the seventh when Darren Daulton hit his first major league homer.

Aguilera got the Mets' first hit in the third inning and had an RBI single in the fourth. Aguilera, who also had a sacrifice, is eight for 20.

In the fourth, Darryl Strawberry singled and scored on George Foster's double. Foster took third on Howard Johnson's single and scored on Aguilera's single against Charles Hudson (5-11).

Johnson drew a leadoff walk in the sixth, moved to second on Aguilera's sacrifice and came home on Len Dykstra's triple. Wally Backman doubled home Dykstra for a 4-0 lead.

Backman went three for four to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. Against the Phillies this season, he is 18 for 31.