NEW YORK - Three strikeouts later, and the shine is off A-Rod again.

Playoff phoenix Alex Rodriguez, in the midst of erasing 4 years of playoff futulity in pinstripes, was absent from the Yankees' toothless offense last night in the 6-1 loss.

He fanned three times and grounded out once against Cliff Lee, the Phillies' starter. A-Rod was 5-for-15 with two homers against Lee entering the night . . . but then, he'd never faced Lee in the playoffs, much less a World Series.

"It's been a long time," Rodriguez said, a bit misleadingly.

Actually, he faced Lee on May 29, when Lee was still pitching for Cleveland. Rodriguez went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout.

Maybe Rodriguez meant it had been a long time since he was successful off Lee.

Asked if the three whiffs bother him, Rodriguez replied: "No. Not at all. You move on."

It was the postseason that caused Rodriguez' descent into Yankee disfavor in New York. If Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels continue what Lee started, surely, his purgatory will be worse than ever.

His secret to success this season and in the playoffs has been keeping his approach simple. He didn't stray last night.

"I did keep it simple," Rodriguez said with a nervous grin. "He kept it simpler."

- Marcus Hayes