PHILADELPHIA -- Mariano Duncan continues to give health a bad name.
Take two triples and call me in the morning . . .
Since he was summoned, sick as a dog, from the clubhouse Saturday night after Kim Batiste pulled his hamstring, Duncan has done nothing but hit.
A double, a single and a run batted in after being pressed into service. Four hits, including a homer and two RBI, Sunday. Two triples, a single and three RBI Monday night to extend his hitting streak to 12 games as the Phillies ventured into Never-Never Land with a 7-5 win over the Astros at Veterans Stadium.
Never had scored off Greg Swindell at the Vet . . .
Never had won this many games this quickly . . .
The Phillies extended their lead to a season-high 8 1/2 games in the National League East over second-place Montreal. The Expos lost at Olympic Stadium to the Reds Monday night.
Also, their 39-16 record is the best start after 55 games in club history, according to records that go back to 1911.
It would be an exaggeration to say that Phillies starter Danny Jackson (5-2) never had beaten the Astros before. But only slightly. Before Monday night, he was 1-5 lifetime with a 6.54 earned run average against Houston.
But that is the kind of season it has been so far for the Phillies. Neither flu nor prior histories nor four runs charged to David West in the top of the ninth have stayed them from their appointed wins.
Duncan still is wearing a number,24, penned on his cap in memory of pal Juan Bell, who was claimed on waivers by Milwaukee last week. He still is feeling the effects of his bout with the flu. But a seamhead never would know by studying the box scores.
"I'm still not strong," he said. "But it keeps me from overswinging. And I'm swinging pretty good."
Duncan, as has become a habit, was only one star-of-the-game candidate. There was reliever Larry Andersen, who came in to get a crucial out. There was Lenny Dykstra, making Swindell work for every pitch. There was Jackson.
Swindell, pitching in the National League for the first time last year with the Reds, made two starts at the Vet. He couldn't have done much better, pitching a pair of shutouts. He changed teams over the winter, signing as a free agent with the Astros, but his effectiveness within the Philadelphia city limits was familiar.
In fact, even fate seemed to conspire against the Phillies when they had a couple of early scoring chances.
The Phillies got a double from Darren Daulton leading off the bottom of the second. The next batter, Pete Incaviglia, lined a single to left. But the Phillies came out of the inning without scoring a run.
Here's how: Incaviglia's hit went just over the glove of leaping shortstop Andujar Cedeno. Daulton had to hold his ground until he was sure the ball was through and, as a result, stopped at third.
Wes Chamberlain followed with a sharp grounder to Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, who looked Daulton back, stepped on first, then whirled and threw to second. With the force no longer in effect, Cedeno had to make the tag on Incaviglia and second-base umpire Brian Gorman signaled that he had.
The only problem was that Incaviglia beat the throw. A television replay clearly showed that he was safe. He popped up to argue and Jim Fregosi came out of the dugout to add his opinion. The call, of course, stood. And that cost the Phillies a run when Joe Millette's fly to left became the third out of the inning
instead of a sacrifice fly.
The Phillies came close to scoring off Swindell again in the third. Dykstra singled with one out. He was running with the pitch when Duncan lined a base hit to right-center. Third-base coach Larry Bowa windmilled Dykstra home, but the relay throw beat him easily.
Trailing 1-0, the Phillies finally ended their streak of futility against Swindell in the sixth, scoring three runs.
Dykstra started the inning with a walk and rounded the bases on Duncan's triple into the right-field corner. The Astros pulled the infield up and it paid off when Kruk grounded out to second. But it didn't matter when Dave Hollins lofted a fly ball deep to center. Duncan tagged up and loped home, putting the Phillies ahead for the first time.
They added an insurance run when Daulton doubled and Incaviglia singled to left. That, at least, was enough to ensure that Swindell was gone when the pitcher's spot came up the next inning. And that turned out to matter when the Phillies smoked Brian Williams for four runs in the seventh.
Jackson was in trouble in the seventh, but should have been out of the inning instead of out of the game. With Astros on first and second and two outs, Jackson got pinch-hitter Casey Candaele to hit a grounder to shortstop Millette, who lobbed to second for the force. Lobbed it too softly, as it turned out. The runner was safe at second and Andersen was summoned to get the final out.
"This was the first night I thought I had command of my slider," Jackson said. "For six years, I thought I could wake up, get out of bed, and throw the slider. But that hasn't been the case this year."
Terry Mulholland made a few suggestions before the game. The slider returned. Craig Biggio grounded out.
Mitch Williams eventually had to be called in for his 17th save when West faltered in the ninth. But that was just the final chapter to another night in Never-Never Land at the Vet.