SAN DIEGO -- At least Randy Wells won't have to talk about his sophomore year any more.
Wells finished his second big league season with a loss on Wednesday and the Padres kept their postseason hopes alive with a 3-0 victory over the Cubs, thanks to Will Venable's two great catches.
"The first catch was good," manager Mike Quade said. "The second catch was phenomenal."
The center fielder robbed Alfonso Soriano of what appeared to be his 25th home run leading off the second with a grab in deep center. In the third inning, the Cubs had a runner on and two outs when Venable snared Aramis Ramirez's fly ball at the wall in left-center.
"That's the difference in the game right there, those two catches he made," Soriano said. "That gives some momentum to the team. Our team was down, and those two catches were very good catches."
Wells (8-14) notched his 18th quality start, the second most on the Cubs' staff. The right-hander, who went 12-10 his first season, struck out two and gave up six hits over seven innings. Two of the three batters he walked unintentionally scored.
How would Wells sum up his sophomore year?
"One word -- terrible," Wells said. "Everything I said I wanted to do coming in, I didn't really do. I learned a lot. That was one of the things I wanted to do. But I continued to make mistakes and continued to let situations hurt [me], and that's not the way to make a long career in this game. I'll go back to the drawing board and take some time off and reflect on the season and come back fresh next year and roll the dice and see what happens."
Quade wasn't as down on Wells' season.
"His whole game is about command," he said of the right-hander, who finished 3-2 with a 3.12 ERA in his last six starts. "He comes up last year, has the good year and we're back to that adjustment year [this season].
"He's going to have to locate his slider and continue to command his sinker well, and he'll be fine. He's going to go as far as that sinker and slider and command will take him, and I think it's going to be a lot farther than people think."
Especially for a guy who began his baseball career as a catcher, as Wells did.
"He's stayed healthy, and the bulk of what's left is making adjustments," Quade said. "Guys are pretty good up here. He pitched fine tonight, but it was just one of those nights."
The Cubs missed a chance in the first. Kosuke Fukudome walked to lead off, moved up on Starlin Castro's single, and both advanced on a double-steal. But Padres starter Chris Young (2-0) settled down and got Marlon Byrd to ground out, then struck out Ramirez and Xavier Nady.
"I threw [Byrd] a slider and was able to keep the runner at third," Young said. "I felt that I could pitch around Ramirez a little. Finally, I was able to get Nady with a slider."
The Padres had runners at first and second and two outs in the second when Chase Headley hit a single that Nady deflected. Castro recovered the ball and threw home but not in time, and a run scored.
Ryan Ludwick doubled to open the fourth, moved up on a sacrifice by Yorvit Torrealba and scored on a wild pitch by Wells to make it 2-0. David Eckstein added an RBI double with one out in the Padres' fifth.
Young, limited because of shoulder problems, struck out six and limited the Cubs to three hits over five innings.
With the win, San Diego kept pace in both the National League West and Wild Card standings.
The Cubs now are 21-12 since Quade took over Aug. 23. General manager Jim Hendry has interviewed former Indians manager Eric Wedge and Hall of Fame second baseman and Triple-A Iowa manager Ryne Sandberg, and there are reports that Yankees manager Joe Girardi also is on Hendry's list. All are well-known names.
"I always like the underdog," Quade said. "[The media] can handicap the thing. I'm proud of the job we've done and the way these guys have finished. We're not finished yet. Let's hope we finish the next five games well. People who make the decisions will make the decision.
"When it comes to underdogs and handicapping, I'll stick to horses."
On Tuesday, Ryan Dempster endorsed Quade for the manager's job next season.
"As long as my relationship with [the players] is good, and I think it is, then I stick to that and do what I have to do," Quade said. "To get support from people is better than to not get support. I'm glad they're happy with the way we're doing things and the way things are going. Hopefully, they'll be productive and happy for the next five days."
In 2009, the Rockies went 74-42 after Jim Tracy replaced Clint Hurdle. The 2003 Marlins may have responded the best to change. After Jack McKeon took charge, they went 75-49 and won the World Series. This year the Orioles are 30-22 since Buck Showalter took over, and the Marlins are 43-44 under Edwin Rodriguez. Winning helps.
"If we hadn't been winning during this time, who knows what the comments would've been," Quade said of the players. "No matter what the situation, winning baseball games takes care of a lot of stuff. Things are never perfect, even when you're winning, but it does make for a lot better environment."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.