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You hear that? It's our Oakland Athletics doing their best to back into the 2004 playoffs. Thankfully, the Anaheim Angels are thus far complying with the plan.

Seriously though, Mark Mulder is a huge concern for our team right now. He still isn't right. I'm becoming more inclined to think that he is indeed injured even though there has been no report and he claims he isn't.

But even Eric Chavez doubts that Mulder is healthy.

Mulder insists he's fine, as does Macha and Oakland's medical staff. Third baseman Eric Chavez, however, didn't sound so sure.

"You look at his velocity and it makes you nervous," Chavez said. "Maybe all those complete games (five this year) are starting to catch up with him, I don't know. But when you see a guy who typically throws 92-93 dropping down to 88, it makes you wonder.

"I don't care about his control or whatever else is going on. You watch the hitters. They'll tell you everything, and right now I see a lot of loud outs and a lot of hard-hit balls. That's a little scary to see with Mark up there, definitely."

His struggles just defy logic. Even he sounds mystified, and like his confidence is shot.

"It was horrible. It was embarrassing," Mulder (17-6) said. "It's been like this for while. ... I'm not doing the team any good. ... I feel like a hitter who's gone 0-for-100."

So what are the A's to do? They are in a pennant race, so they can't shut him down for a start, can they? Of course not.

But the reality is that he needs a short leash...a very short leash in his next start against Anaheim. The A's can't afford to take any chances.

There is a poll attached to this post asking what you think Mulder's problems are (click on entry link to get to it). Maybe AN can get to the bottom of this.