SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants have gone from having a half-game lead in the division and a season-best five-game winning streak to their worst skid in 10 years -- all in a span of 11 days.
And the players are baffled that things could suddenly get so bad, considering they have long believed this veteran roster has the talent to win the mediocre NL West and make the playoffs.
That certainly seems like a long shot they way things are going.
Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run double and Livan Hernandez won his fourth straight decision in the Washington Nationals' 4-1 victory over the Giants on Tuesday night.
"It's surprising to us because we haven't really had a bad streak like this all year," first baseman Mark Sweeney said. "It's hard to chew on when you leave the field the way we've been leaving the field."
The Giants lost their ninth straight game, the club's longest losing streak since dropping 10 in a row from June 21-30, 1996 -- and the fans are growing increasingly restless and impatient with the team.
Those in the crowd who were still around by the ninth booed embattled closer Armando Benitez after he struck out Marlon Anderson to start the inning.
Benitez, who has blown his last three saves after converting seven straight, gestured to the fans twice, including raising his arms as he walked to the dugout after retiring the side in order.
The Giants haven't won since taking a half-game lead over Arizona and San Diego on July 22. They are last in the five-team division, 4½ games out of first.
"That's definitely warranted," Sweeney said of the fans' frustration. "Our fans are great fans and very smart. You've got to understand, it's not like we're showing up and throwing our gloves out there."
Alfonso Soriano hit a sacrifice fly and Felipe Lopez tripled, walked twice, scored a run and stole his 30th base for Washington.
Soriano -- playing his second game after learning he wouldn't be traded at the deadline after all -- hit a sacrifice fly to right in the third inning for Washington, which snapped a six-game road losing streak with Monday's 10-7 win and played well again.
Ray Durham singled to center with two outs in the sixth to drive in a run for San Francisco, but the Giants did little else on offense to help rookie starter Matt Cain.
Hernandez (9-8) pitched seven strong innings to beat his former team for the second straight start, pitching in San Francisco's waterfront ballpark for the first time since the Giants traded him during spring training in 2003.
The burly right-hander hasn't lost since June 20 at Boston, a span of eight starts. He allowed six hits and one run, struck out three and walked one. Chad Cordero pitched the ninth for his 19th save.
"I felt great," said Hernandez, the losing pitcher for the Giants in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series against the Angels. "I could throw any pitch at any time. It's important for me because the sinker came back. ... People still blame me for Game 7. People forget I won more important games that year."
Barry Bonds was held out of the lineup with swelling in his right knee.
The Giants' slugger asked manager Felipe Alou for a break to rest his troublesome knee, three days after he fouled a ball of his right ankle in the sixth inning at Pittsburgh.
Giants trainer Stan Conte said Bonds might have favored his right leg, putting more pressure on the knee. The 42-year-old Bonds, second on the career home run list with 722 behind Hank Aaron's 755, underwent three operations on his right knee last year and was limited to 14 games in 2005.
Cain (7-8) lost to Washington for the second time in six days, but struck out seven both times. The right-hander allowed four hits and two runs in seven innings, walking two.
Moises Alou grounded into an inning-ending double play in the first, swinging at a 3-0 pitch. He struck out swinging on a curveball clocked at 61 mph in the sixth and was booed as he headed for the dugout.
The Giants held a brief team meeting after the game. "Embarrassing to lose nine straight?" Felipe Alou said. "It's embarrassing to lose one or two. It can happen."
Nationals manager Frank Robinson marked the 24th anniversary of his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. ... Giants SS Omar Vizquel had his fifth straight multihit game at home, reached base in all four of his plate appearances - seven straight overall - and stole his 16th base. ... The Nationals placed C Robert Fick on the 15-day DL with left rib cartilage separation, an injury that will likely take at least three or four weeks to heal. ... Giants 3B Pedro Feliz, who had played every inning this season, didn't start for the first time. Shea Hillenbrand took his place. Feliz had been one of six players in the majors to start each of their team's games at the same position. ... Hernandez is 3-2 in five starts against the Giants since they dealt him. ... The Giants surpassed the 3 million mark in ticket sales for the seventh straight year.