Anthony Rieber Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004.

Where have you gone, Alex Rodriguez? Yankee Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

But not until Monday.

A-Rod and the Yankees continued their offensive funk Wednesday in a 6-2 loss to the Astros at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees, who have lost five of seven, scored four runs while losing two of three to the AL West leaders.

Rodriguez, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, may be wearing down in the dog days of August. Since the calendar turned from his impressive July (.286, 9 HRs, 16 RBIs), the 40-year-old is 11-for-80 (.138) with two HRs and eight RBIs.

With Mark Teixeira and now Jacoby Ellsbury hobbled by injuries, the Yankees more than ever need A-Rod to be the force he has been for most of his astounding comeback season. But that most likely won't happen until the weekend is over.

The Yankees are off Thursday and then play three interleague games in Atlanta starting Friday. Unless Joe Girardi has a change of heart, Rodriguez is not expected to start in the field in the DH-less games. Rodriguez had appeared four times at third and twice at first this season, but has not put on a glove since May 23.

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"Right now, I don't see it," Girardi said. "Take a day off, sleep on it, see what I think. But he hasn't been on the field in a long time."

So the next time A-Rod likely will be in the starting lineup is Monday at Fenway Park, where the Yankees will open a three-game series against the disheveled Red Sox.

Perhaps the prospect of four almost complete days off will rejuvenate Rodriguez, who recently had two straight days off that didn't do the trick. Or maybe the unbridled hatred of Boston fans will lift A-Rod's spirits, as it has seemed to in the past.

Whatever he needs to do to get right, Rodriguez needs to do it. Try anything. Leave no stone unturned . . .

Just kidding. There's one stone A-Rod needs to leave right where it is -- the one that led him to performance-enhancing drug use and a full-year suspension.

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A-Rod's feel-good story would feel a lot less good if it turns out he's not clean -- again. He has said he is, but he also understands he has lost the right to have anyone believe him.

If you're a Yankees fan, you don't care what Rodriguez is doing in his spare time. You just want him to produce. Overall, A-Rod is still hitting .255 with 26 HRs and 69 RBIs.

"It just seemed like the good swings that he had, he was fouling them back," Girardi said. "So he's just missing them. Hopefully that's a good sign and he's starts centering them."

The Astros have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. But this series showed what the Yankees' offense is like without contributions from Rodriguez, Teixeira and Ellsbury.

Teixeira did not start because of the shin injury that already has cost him a week. Ellsbury, who had seven hits in his last 19 at-bats, sat because of a sore hip. Girardi did not know if he would play Friday.

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Rodriguez, who did not talk to the media after the game, has no known ailments except for a sick bat. The Yankees need it to get well soon if they want their own feel-good story to continue.