SAN DIEGO -- Nick Hundley hit a three-run home run on Wednesday and caught all nine innings of the Padres' 9-2 victory over the Cubs at PETCO Park, leaving him sufficiently satisfied with the way the final day of the regular season went.
"This was a good way to finish," Hundley said, standing in front of his locker inside the home clubhouse. "But we don't want to be finished."
Hundley wasn't referencing the end of the season, but that the Padres -- unlike a year ago this week -- weren't busy readying themselves for meaningful games in October.
The Padres, a year removed from winning 90 games, improved to 71-91 with the victory over the Cubs (71-91) before a crowd of 32,452 at PETCO Park, as Hundley hit a three-run home run and Will Venable later added a grand slam.
The tenor in the room after the game leaned more toward eagerness -- instead of relief -- that this season that fell well short of expectations was over.
"We're not as far off as our record might show," Venable said.
The Padres showed some of the elements on Wednesday that can become more prevalent parts of their game in 2012 -- and not just the big blasts off the bats of Hundley and Venable.
San Diego starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc (5-6) allowed two runs on five hits over seven innings. He walked two, struck out three, as he won for the third time this month. LeBlanc will head to Spring Training in February looking to lock down a spot in the rotation.
LeBlanc will do so hoping to recapture the surprising life on his fastball that served him well this month.
"The thing we've seen the last two starts, is an increase in velocity," Padres manager Bud Black said of LeBlanc, who has relied heavily on his plus-changeup in the past. "The last start, no walks, 10 strikeouts. Tonight, he was beating guys with his fastball."
LeBlanc also had the benefit of pitching with a lead, after Hundley continued his post All-Star break tear with a three-run home run off Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster (10-14) in the third inning.
It was the ninth home run of the season for Hundley, who hit .367 after the All-Star break and hit safely in 26 of the 36 games he appeared in since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 12.
"That was a good at-bat. Nick finally got Dempster on the breaking ball," Black said. "He had a great second half. Nick came on strong. We've seen steady development from Nick in all phases."
Hundley missed 63 games with two separate DL stints -- for a strained oblique and a right elbow strain that led to surgery. The Padres are hoping for big things from him in 2012, much like they are from Venable.
Venable, the Padres' starting right fielder on Opening Day, struggled early in the season and was optioned to Triple-A Tucson on May 23. He returned in June and had success -- though not nearly enough, as far as he was concerned.
"I could sit and think all day long how this year was a disappointment," Venable said. "But I learned a lot about myself and the game ... things I hope I can implement into being the player I know I can be."
Venable's grand slam off Dempster in the sixth inning was the first grand slam of his career, and his ninth home run of the season. The left-handed hitting Venable actually drove a fastball to the opposite-field, not an easy trick at spacious PETCO Park.
"It's really good to see Will hitting a fastball out over the plate," Black said. "We have seen that before. We know it's in there."
Cameron Maybin had two hits and stole his 40th base of the season, becoming the ninth player in club history to steal 40 or more bases. Eight different players had hits in the game.
"It's a good game to end on," LeBlanc said. "Hopefully, we will be able to take some of this positive energy with us going into the offseason."