Lady Luck simply doesn't seem to be a Jays fan

Mike Ulmer

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

It's the Canada Day weekend, time to take stock of all great things Canadian.

Time too, to decide if the Blue Jays are one of them.

Anybody out there got a guess?

So far this season, the Jays have played mostly without benefit of their $55-million US pitcher, A. J. Burnett.

Right now they also are without lefty Gustavo Chacin, out until August because of elbow problems.

"Having starting pitchers out really hurts," outfielder Frank Catalanotto said. "For us to be four games out with those guys not having thrown that much, that's a plus.

"When we do get those guys back, hopefully we'll be ready for a big run."

That is the key word for the 2006 Blue Jays ... when.

The Jays won their fifth consecutive game yesterday, dispatching the lacklustre Philadelphia Phillies 5-2 in an interleague tilt.

Vernon Wells missed the game with a minor hamstring strain and there is nothing out of the ordinary about that.

But Alex Rios' breakout season has been scuttled by a virulent infection of his shin that has him in hospital. It was a result of a foul ball that apparently didn't break his skin.

It has been at turns, flat-out weird. The season wasn't a month old before the Jays found their starting shortstop, Russ Adams, couldn't hit the target with the kind of regularity fans sitting behind first base insist on. Adams was farmed out, brought back and put at second where the throws are shorter and by necessity safer.

The middle infield is a concern. The Jays have turned 73 double plays this year, 20 fewer than their opponents. "We think we've got it straightened out but there's no doubt, you can't give away outs," manager John Gibbons said.

Adams is hitting .229 and yesterday Gibbons had Troy Glaus back at short, a redwood among the saplings.

Josh Towers, a 13-game winner last season is 1-9 and now is summering in Syracuse. Who goes from a share of the staff lead in wins to completely forgetting how to pitch?

So where are your Jays? Well, they are seven games out of the wild card, which likely means they will have to climb over the New York Yankees and Red Sox.

Still ...

"We're in great position right now," catcher Bengie Molina said. "We wanted to have a few more wins but this is where we stand. We're 12 games over .500. All we got to do is try to fight with those guys and stay in the race."

This season, the Jays have found victories in not losing ground.

As the always chipper Gibbons put it while talking about the Red Sox 12-game winning streak, "they won all those games and they didn't bury us."

Not buried but maybe with one foot in the soil.

In three months, the Jays have managed to stay exactly where they were three months ago.

The offence has been great but it's bound to slow if Rios stays out of the lineup. Ty Taubenheim gave a credible performance yesterday but neither he nor Dustin McGowan, a probable callup from Syracuse, can be expected to supply the vital wins Chacin would have provided.

Yes, the rotation of Roy Halladay, Burnett, Ted Lilly and rookie Casey Janssen has steadied things. But even in the heady throes of this five-game winning streak, you wonder if this year's Blue Jays seem destined to fall just short in a brutal division, a victim not so much of poor planning, managing or execution but just very, very bad mojo.

mike.ulmer@tor.sunpub.com


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