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07/27/06 3:00 AM ET

Jays' comeback falls short in Seattle

Offense can't overcome Burnett's early-game struggles

SEATTLE -- A.J. Burnett, still searching for consistency after a couple stints on the disabled list, has yet to provide the lift Toronto is hoping for.

Burnett, who signed a five-year, $55 million free agent deal during the offseason, put his team in a five-run hole by the fourth inning on Wednesday, and Seattle held off the Blue Jays' rally for a 7-4 victory at Safeco Field.

The Jays were unable to gain ground in the intense and tight AL East. They are still 5 1/2 games behind division-leading Boston and four behind second-place New York. The Mariners took two of three from the Blue Jays, who now head to Oakland for a four-game series. They will close this 10-game road trip next week with three at Yankee Stadium.

"It wasn't A.J.'s night. He had trouble locating,'' Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Consistency is what he's looking for. When he's on, there's not many better. But like anybody else, you still have to command the ball.''

Burnett (2-4, 4.53 ERA) started the season on the disabled list because of scar tissue in his right elbow. He came off on April 15 but after two starts, he returned to the DL. He came back again on June 22.

His previous two starts were solid, but he threw more than 100 pitches in his last three outings, including 121 pitches Friday against New York. That was the most pitches for him since July 6, 2005.

Asked if that high pitch count had any residual effect on his performance on Wednesday, he said, "No, I'm going to throw my share of pitches. I had opportunities to make some pitches with two outs, and I didn't do it.''

The Jays scored first on a two-out, first-inning single by Lyle Overbay, driving in Aaron Hill from second. But the Mariners responded with three in the bottom of the inning as Raul Ibanez, Richie Sexson and Greg Dobbs had successive two-out RBI hits. Adrian Beltre made it 4-1 with his ninth home run to open the third.

"The first inning was the whole game,'' Burnett said. "I did not make a pitch the whole game.''

Burnett allowed five earned runs and a season-high-matching 10 hits in just four innings. By the fifth, the Jays trailed, 6-1, yet managed to make it a game.

Through five, the Jays couldn't get much action against 42-year-old Jamie Moyer, who had a 10.97 ERA in two starts since the All-Star break. What the Jays did do, however, is work deep into the counts. After three innings, Moyer already had thrown 71 pitches. Reed Johnson had a 10-pitch at-bat in the second, and Troy Glaus worked him for 11 pitches in the third.

"We battled; he battled,'' Gibbons said of Moyer, who is now 13-7 in his career against Toronto. "We made him work, but it's tough to overcome that kind of lead sometimes.''

By the sixth, Moyer was over 100 pitches and weary. Vernon Wells, returning after missing two games with back spasms, extended his hitting streak to 11 with a single to open the inning. Wells finished with three hits. Glaus walked and Overbay lashed an RBI single to right, ending Moyer's evening.

Reliever Julio Mateo took over and Bengie Molina greeted him with a sac fly to center for a 7-3 score. Overbay later scored on an error by Mateo as the Jays climbed back to within three, 7-4.

"I felt confident to be able to play. It was good to be back in the lineup and trying to help this team win,'' Wells said. "[My back] is a little stiff, and it's sore. It's something I have to get through. Hopefully, it's not going to hurt myself any further.''

The Jays loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, but Johnson hit into a double play. In the ninth, the Jay again threatened with runners on first and second and no outs, but Mariners closer J.J. Putz retired the final three batters for his 20th save.

"You can't [come back] every night,'' Gibbons said. "They throw some pretty good arms at you. We gave it a chance, though.''

Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.