CINCINNATI — In Sunday’s 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, the Cincinnati Reds didn’t steal a base for just the sixth time this season. The team’s 38 stolen bases are tied with the Washington Nationals for the best in baseball and the figure puts them on pace to steal nearly 300 bases on the season.

The Reds’ club record for steals in a season is 310, but that was done in 1910. Since 1913, only two teams — the 1976 Oakland A’s (341) and the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals (314) — have stolen 300 bases. In that span, only two other teams have stolen even 260 bases — the 1986 Cardinals (262) and the 1977 Pittsburgh Pirates (260).

Last year, the Reds led baseball with 190 steals, 24 more than the Arizona Diamondbacks.

As soon as Elly De La Cruz was promoted to the big leagues last June, the Reds transformed into a running team. They had good base runners before, but the team was built with speed as a prime component.

De La Cruz finished with 35 steals last year. His 10 swipes this season are tied with the Nationals’ Lane Thomas and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Brice Turang for the most in baseball. He’s also tied for the most times caught stealing (three), but the team will live with that because of what happens when he does run the bases.

Friday was a key example. De La Cruz stole second with two outs in the second inning and then stole third, forcing a throwing error by Angels catcher Logan O’Hoppe that allowed De La Cruz to score just two pitches after reaching base.

Saturday, De La Cruz was thrown out on an attempted steal of third after he drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a disengagement violation in the fourth inning.

Although the plan is never to make outs, Reds manager David Bell said he’s fine with the occasional out, even at third base for the first or third out, especially from De La Cruz.

“There are times when he’s going to get thrown out that everyone’s going to be upset because he’s thrown out with two outs,” Bell said before Saturday’s game. “We’ve got to live with those things when he makes plays like he does (Friday) night. Let’s put the pressure on and they still have to make a play.”

De La Cruz has even added to his offensive game, showing off a delayed steal in the fourth inning. The delayed steal was something Reds coach Collin Cowgill worked with De La Cruz on in spring training.

“If you’re really fast, it makes sense,” Bell said. “You let down because you’re so ready to go. The style of catching has changed, so there’s more opportunities to delay (steal). You didn’t see it very often for a while. Catchers are aware of it, but the priority is getting strikes and they can be on a knee and things like that.”

The Reds are successful 79 percent of the time they steal this year and were successful 80 percent last year. That’s about where they’d like to be, Bell said.

“We’d like to be higher,” Bell said, “and I think he can be.”

It’s been a good start, with De La Cruz’s prowess and Will Benson, Jake Fraley and Stuart Fairchild stealing five bases each. But the team doesn’t have its second-best base stealer from last season, TJ Friedl. Friedl could return to the team next month and provide a boost at the top of the lineup in setting the table and stealing bases.

Not only is the team without Friedl, but it’s also without its third- and fourth-fastest players from last year’s team by Statcast’s sprint speed metric in Noelvi Marte and Matt McLain. Marte is serving an 80-game suspension and should return this summer, while McLain had shoulder surgery and his return this season is still in question.

Three-hole sacrifice

Friday night, the Reds put their first two batters on base with a one-run lead in the eighth inning, bringing up Stuart Fairchild in the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Typically, that’s not the spot in the lineup where you think about a sacrifice bunt, but that’s exactly what Bell and Fairchild were thinking about.

Bell said it was an obvious spot; the Reds had their closer warming up in the bullpen and any run would give Alexis Díaz some breathing room.

While Bell called for the play, Fairchild saw Jonathan India get on with a leadoff walk and was already thinking that if Spencer Steer got on base, a sacrifice would allow the team to add to the lead.

The Reds’ Stuart Fairchild laid down a head’s up bunt in Friday’s game.. (Katie Stratman / USA Today)

In his second start in the three-hole this season (and ninth career start there), Fairchild laid down a perfect sacrifice against Angels side-armer Adam Cimber, moving the runners over. Tyler Stephenson followed with a walk and then Cimber hit Nick Martini to score a run. Steer scored on a wild pitch before De La Cruz’s three-run homer.

“That was a perfect situation to bunt in,” Bell said. “It’s amazing how rarely you get in those situations where it’s an obvious situation. They knew we were going to bunt, we knew we were going to bunt.”

It helped, Bell noted, that Fairchild is a good bunter. Sunday, Santiago Espinal struck out on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt with two strikes with two on and no outs in the fifth inning and Angels starter José Soriano throwing a no-hitter.

Fairchild’s bunt was just the third successful sacrifice bunt by a No. 3 batter this season, with the Cardinals’ Lars Nootbaar and the San Diego Padres’ Jurickson Profar as the other two, both coming earlier in the week. In all three instances, the runners who moved over scored.

Last season, there were only 10 successful sacrifice bunts by three-hole hitters, including once by De La Cruz. Two of the 10 were in extra innings. Of those 10 successful sacrifice bunts, only twice did it lead to runs.

Special outing

Reds starter Nick Lodolo grew up an Angels fan and lived 20 minutes from their stadium, so starting against the team he grew up rooting for was special. But facing — and retiring — Mike Trout was even more special.

“My dad had season tickets for me when I was a kid so I watched Mike Trout from his debut to the time I left for college,” said Lodolo, who allowed just a run 6 1/3 innings Friday against the Angels. “So it was pretty cool to see him in the box there today. … I asked for the lineup card because I grew up an Angels fan.”

Lodolo, who was facing the Angels for the first time in his career, retired Trout all three times he faced him, getting two flyouts and a strikeout looking. After the game, Lodolo said he was wary of introducing himself to Trout because he didn’t want to “fangirl” and embarrass himself.

The week that was

The Reds were swept in Seattle, only to return home and sweep the Angels. The Reds swept the White Sox before getting swept by the Mariners. The Reds are now 12-9, their first winning record after 21 games since David Bell took over in 2019. The Reds hadn’t had a winning record after 21 games since 2013 (also 12-9). It is just the sixth time in 22 seasons at Great American Ball Park that the Reds have had a winning record after 21 games.

The week ahead

The Reds welcome former Red Nick Castellanos and the Philadelphia Phillies for four games before heading to Texas to play at Globe Life Field for the first time. Castellanos is in his third season with the Phillies after two seasons in Cincinnati, including his 2021 All-Star campaign. Castellanos, who opted out of the final two years of his deal with the Reds to hit free agency following the 2021 season, signed a five-year, $100 million deal with Philadelphia. In his first two seasons, he put up a 104 OPS+ and hit 42 home runs. This season, Castellanos is hitting .177/.244/.203 with just one extra-base hit (a triple) in 86 plate appearances. He had a 127 OPS+ and 48 home runs in his two seasons with the Reds, which included the 60-game 2020 season. Even including the postseason with the Phillies, he still has more home runs as a Red in 198 games than as a Phillie (47) in 345 games.

Injury updates

• RHP Frankie Montas (right forearm bruise) left Sunday’s game after getting hit by a comebacker from Taylor Ward that was measured at 101.3 mph off the bat. X-rays taken Sunday afternoon showed no fracture. Montas said after Sunday’s game that it’s possible he could miss his next start. His right forearm was swollen after the game and he said he couldn’t feel his hand when he threw Ward out at first.

The Reds could have Nick Martinez available to start Friday if Montas can’t go. Martinez moved from the rotation to the bullpen when the team activated Lodolo. Martinez pitched Saturday, so he could be on full rest for a start Friday.

• OF TJ Friedl (right wrist fracture) could start a rehab assignment in as soon as a week to 10 days, Bell said Sunday.

• IF Jonathan India, OF Jake Fraley (illness) weren’t in the lineup Sunday. India left Saturday’s game due to illness, while Fraley entered Saturday’s game after not starting.

• IF Jeimer Candelario, IF Christian Encarnacion-Strand (illness) both returned to the lineup Saturday after missing three and two games, respectively. While both were hitless in their return to the lineup Saturday, they accounted for all three RBIs in Sunday’s game. Encarnacion-Strand hit a two-run double in the Reds’ sixth and Candelario followed with an RBI triple. Candelario reached base three times Sunday, with a pair of hits and a hit by pitch.

• RHP Ian Gibaut (right forearm strain) is feeling better after being returned from his rehab assignment on Friday with renewed forearm discomfort, Bell said Sunday. Gibaut threw Saturday and is eligible to return to his rehab assignment Wednesday.

• LHP Brandon Williamson (left shoulder strain) is still in Arizona and progressing well, Bell said Friday. He is on track to return in late May.

• LHP Sam Moll (left shoulder impingement) is feeling better, Bell said, but he’s struggled some at Triple A, where he’s 1-2 with a 7.36 ERA in eight appearances. However, he’s allowed just three hits and one run over his last four appearances, including a scoreless inning Saturday. Over that span, Moll has three strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter in four innings.

“He’s healthy, but working back to where his health and pitching match up,” Bell said Sunday.

• LHP Alex Young (low back disc degeneration) is throwing, but his back isn’t feeling 100 percent yet, Bell said Sunday.

Minor League Roundup

• Triple-A Louisville (9-12): IF Livan Soto was claimed by the Reds earlier this week and made his first appearance for the Bats on Sunday, playing shortstop and leading off. Soto, 23, had a bunt single in his third plate appearance of the day. He finished 1-for-4 and is now hitting .250/.333/.417 covering three Triple-A teams, the Salt Lake Bees (Angels), Norfolk Tides (Baltimore Orioles) and now Louisville Bats. He played nine games for the Bees and one for the Tides before joining the Bats.

• Double-A Chattanooga (4-10): C Mat Nelson, the 35th pick in the 2021 draft, is off to a good start with the Lookouts. Nelson has six hits in his first 21 at-bats (.286) and also has a .414 on-base percentage. He’s also caught four of 9 would-be base stealers on the season.

• High-A Dayton (6-9): RHP Luis Mey hit 103 on the radar gun for the Dragons Wednesday. The 22-year-old appeared in his fourth game for the Dragons this year on Sunday, allowing his first runs of the season and being charged with his first loss. Mey has allowed two runs — one earned — on four hits with six walks and five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings this year.

• Low-A Daytona (8-7): IF Ricardo Cabrera came into Sunday’s Tortugas’ game in the 10th inning as a pinch-hitter and extended his hitting streak to seven games with an RBI single in the team’s 8-7 loss. Cabrera, 19, was signed out of Venezuela in 2022. In his first year with a full-season affiliate, Cabrera is off to a hot start, hitting .375/.471/.595 with two homers in 51 plate appearances. Cabrera is Keith Law’s No. 10 ranked Reds prospect.

(Photo of De La Cruz stealing second base against the Angels: Phil Didion / The Enquirer / USA Today)