But it got the Dodgers a split of their four-game series after Thursday's 4-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
"Any time you've got Kershaw and Zack starting and you don't get a win in either game, chances are you'll run into trouble, because it's three days before you get back to them," said manager Don Mattingly. "But Carlos gave us zeros for five innings and the bullpen pieced it together."
Dodgers president Andrew Friedman is stalking rotation upgrades for his minimum-wage subs, but Frias gave his club just enough with five innings despite feeling weak and dehydrated from an early-week bout with the flu. That left the bullpen with four innings to preserve the shutout after picking up 4 1/3 scoreless innings Wednesday night.
It was a big rebound for Frias, who allowed four and six runs in his past two starts. He picked up his first win since May 30, evening his record at 5-5.
Joel Peralta, J.P. Howell, Yimi Garcia and Kenley Jansen allowed only one combined baserunner in their four innings, and there's a chance they will get some reinforcements before the trip is over, as Paco Rodriguez, Brandon League and Pedro Baez are close to returning from rehab assignments.
Instead, slumping middle infielders Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins made it happen. Rollins had two hits, a run and an RBI, while Kendrick hit a two-run double, all the runs scoring in the first two innings off Cubs ace Jon Lester, who has fewer wins and more losses than Frias.
Kendrick hadn't driven in a run in 12 games, but Rollins has been in a season-long slump. Only in the past week has he shown a willingness to adjust rather than to continue pulling pitches into the teeth of a dramatic shift that has anchored his batting average around the Mendoza line.
"He's looked good," Mattingly said of Rollins. "He's been working on things with his swing, using different parts of the field."
"I've been in the cage a lot with [hitting coaches Mark McGwire and John Valentin], doing a lot of talking, and made the commitment to do those things," Rollins said.
That even included a rare bunt single that set up Kendrick's two-run double. In the second inning, after Enrique Hernandez tripled home Frias, Rollins singled home Hernandez.
Rollins said he's fought through question of self confidence.
"The only time you ask yourself if you've still got it is when you go 0-for-4 and the team loses," Rollins said. "But you wake up the next day and know, 'That was yesterday, keep working, make adjustments,' and eventually you believe in it."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.