SAN DIEGO—The San Diego Padres won their first and last games of the 2011 season.The Padres beat the Cubs 9-2 on Wednesday night. Will Venable hit his first career grand slam and Nick Hundley hit a three-run shot to lift the normally punchless Padres.Starlin Castro became the youngest player — at 21 years, 188 days — to lead the NL with 207 hits. He doubled in the eighth to reach base in a career-high 40 straight games and extend his hitting streak to 10 games. He also hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth. The teams both finished 71-91. The season was especially disappointing for the Padres. They won 90 games last year and took their postseason chances down to the last day. They traded All-Star Adrian Gonzalez to Boston in December, got off to a horrible start and never recovered. The late power surge might not be enough to save hitting coach Randy Ready’s job. Since moving into spacious Petco Park in 2004, the Padres have fired their hitting coach three times and would have dismissed Wally Joyner in 2008 if he hadn’t resigned with six games left. Despite the two homers, the Padres finished with a major league-low 91. The Padres and Astros (95) were the only big league teams with fewer than 100. Venable and Hundley tied Cameron Maybin for the team home run lead with nine. Venable hit an opposite-field slam to left to chase Ryan Dempster in the sixth. Dempster retired the first two batters before loading the bases on singles by Andy Parrino and starter Wade LeBlanc, and a walk to Maybin. Hundley homered into the second deck in left field to cap the four-run third. Dempster retired the first two batters before walking LeBlanc, who scored on Maybin’s RBI double. Venable walked ahead of Hundley’s homer.LeBlanc (5-6) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings, struck out three and walked two. Dempster (10-14) allowed nine runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings, struck out seven and walked four. The 14 losses extended his career-high, and he matched his career-high with his sixth straight loss, over eight starts.
“It stinks to have to be going home,” Dempster said. “I don’t like to finish the season that way. You have to give credit to them, they hit my mistakes. It’s an end to what’s been a rough season for us. We just go home, work hard and come back next year.”
NOTES—Asked if Ready’s job is safe, Padres general manager Jed Hoyer said: “I’m not going to answer that.” If Ready is canned, he’d be the fifth Padres hitting coach to be let go since the downtown ballpark opened in 2004. Dave Magadan was fired on June 15, 2006, and was replaced by Merv Rettenmund. Rettenmund was fired on July 31, 2007, and replaced by Joyner. Jim Lefebvre was hired before the 2009 season, was pink-slipped that July 31 and replaced by Ready. … Hoyer will meet with the media on Thursday to discuss the Padres’ dismal season. … Closer Heath Bell, San Diego’s only All-Star, said he has a “gut instinct” he’ll be back next season. “I’m not planning to clean out my locker,” said Bell, who added that he was taking only a few of his son’s things, plus his glove and a few pairs of shoes so he can work out at his home in northern San Diego County and some nearby high schools. … Maybin became the ninth Padres player in history to steal 40 bases.