"I think it's in the back of everyone's mind ... from a pride standpoint, no one wants to lose 100 games," Padres pitcher Chris Young said. "It's been a disappointing season on the whole, especially coming off last year. But it doesn't change how we feel about the season."
Yes, these Padres (63-98) are about as far removed from 2007, when they won 89 games and missed the playoffs by a victory, as you can get, though you don't need a microscope to see signs of promise.
Take Young (7-6), who missed 77 games with two stints on the disabled list. He allowed one run over six innings Saturday with five strikeouts and no walks as he won his third game in September. He allowed five combined runs over his last four starts.
"Chris has pitched well. I'm happy for him the way he bounced back from both setbacks. ... It's a great sign for next year," Padres manager Bud Black said of Young, who missed 59 games after being hit in the face with a line drive in May and then another 18 games with a forearm strain.
Young's outing against the Pirates (66-95) more or less mirrored his season. He struggled somewhat early with command, allowing five hits over the first three innings, including an RBI double to Adam LaRoche in the third inning.
But Young, relying on a sharp slider and improved fastball command, set down the final nine hitters he faced before turning the lead over to the bullpen. Closer Trevor Hoffman picked up his 30th save with a scoreless ninth inning.
Hoffman was able to extend his Major League record for 30-save seasons to 13, though it took more work in a season of struggle than anyone could have anticipated.
"I don't think we're that far off," Young said of the Padres, who play in about as topsy-turvy a division in baseball as there is. "We've had a lot of bad, a lot of things that could go wrong, went wrong.
"There's too much talent for us not to bounce back next year."
The Padres took a big step toward avoiding 100 losses when Kevin Kouzmanoff snapped out of an 0-for-16 skid with a two-run home run off Pittsburgh's Jimmy Barthmaier (0-2).
Kouzmanoff's home run to left field was preceded by an RBI double by Gonzalez, which gave him 119 RBIs this season. He is now tied for third on the team's single-season RBI list with Tony Gwynn and Greg Vaughn.
Black, like Young and Gonzalez, didn't get too wrapped up in avoiding the 100-loss mark.
"When the season started, we didn't think that was a number to think about. [Now] it's not going to happen," he said.