AS THE PHILLIES' offensive slump continues, so does our quest to pay out big bucks to our loyal readers.

The drought in the Daily News Home Run Payoff is as dry as parts of the Lone Star State, with the win column standing at just two contestants strong - more than a quarter of the way through the 2011 season.

Carlos Ruiz made Terry Bradley, of Maple Shade, N.J., our latest $1,000 winner - on April 14. That's 36 games ago, which, according to our in-house statistician Bob Vetrone Jr., is tied for the 15th-longest dry spell since HRP's inception in 1978. Here's a look at some of the longest, courtesy of Vetrone's diligence:

(Dates of bookend Payoff homers in parentheses)

60: 1996-97 (Sept. 7-May 19)

57: 1988 (April 6-June 13)

47: 1976 (Aug. 8-Sept. 27)

47: 2007 (July 27-Sept. 17)

46: 1985-86 (Sept. 2-April 26)

46: 1997-98 (Sept. 26-May 22)

45: 1984 (July 12-Aug. 30)

41: 1994 (April 21-June 7)

40: 1999-00 (Sept. 30-May 17)

Since Chooch's April blast, there have been 23 payoff innings in which the side has been retired after three batters. On Monday, the night of Chase Utley's return, the Phillies found their stride and rolled to a 10-3 win, off 14 hits and three monster home runs.

None of which came in the Payoff inning.

To those unfamiliar with HRP, it's a joint venture between the People's Paper and WPHT (1210-AM). Readers enter via coupons found in the Daily News and online at Philly.com. Contestant information is put on a mass list and names are called during the Payoff inning. If a Phillies player hits a home run, the contestant wins $1,000 - a grand slam nets $10,000. In the absence of a homer, contestants win a Phillies prize pack that comes with Phillies-related items but no cash. If you'd like to play, today's coupon is on Page 51; fill it out and send it in.

Many of you are probably thinking we should be thanking the Phillies for their hitting woes as we've had our own cash-flow problems around here, but with the ongoing resurrection of our publication - thanks to our most recent regime - I think we're good.

So Phillies: Do everyone a favor (yourself included) and start hitting some dingers.

- Kerith Gabriel