ROME, Georgia -- Franklyn Kilome allowed 17 earned runs over just 9 2/3 innings in his first three starts for Class A Lakewood in April.
Since then, the 21-year-old the right-hander has been getting payback against South Atlantic League hitters.
Kilome's fastball can reach the high-90s, but it's his improved and now-devastating curveball that has made the difference for him.
The Phillies' No. 9 prospect allowed one hit and two walks while striking out nine over seven innings Monday as the visiting BlueClaws blanked the Rome Braves, 5-0, in the opener of the best-of-5 South Atlantic League Championship Series.
"I felt really good. It might have been my best game," the native of the Dominican Republic said. "It was important to win Game 1, so I definitely wanted to be well. My curveball was good. Very good."
It wasn't as good in April, when Kilome (1-0) skipped a start to work on his grip. His knuckle curve was scrapped.
"It's helped him tremendously," Lakewood manager Shawn Williams said of the changed grip. "He's got two different curves now. He's got one he can command and throw for strikes, and another for a put-away pitch. He's throwing the ball very well, and for me, the way he's turned it around this season has really been fun to watch. He's progressed big time."
With Lakewood sweeping Hagerstown in two games to open the playoffs, Kilome hadn't pitched since giving up two hits without a walk while fanning 10 over six scoreless innings against Greensboro on Sept. 4 to close the regular season.
If the Braves thought Kilome might be off his game because of the layoff, they were wrong.
"No, no, no. I wasn't worried about the time off at all," he said. "I got in plenty of work on the side. I was ready. Everyone was ready."
Kilome retired his first 12 batters, five via the strikeout, while throwing 28 of 39 pitches for strikes. Justin Ellison sliced a double to left field leading off the fifth inning on a 2-1 fastball to break up the no-hit bid, and Jared James walked on a 3-2 pitch with one out. A wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position with two outs, but Kilome fanned Kevin Josephina.
Ellison, who walked in the seventh, was Rome's only other baserunner. He reached second on a wild pitch, but Kilome ended the threat by striking out James looking with his 86th and final pitch.
Grant Dyer took over and struck out three over two hitless innings.
The Rome defense committed three errors with starter Mike Soroka (1-1), who came in having won his last eight decisions, on the mound. MLB.com's No. 96 overall prospect, gave up four runs -- all unearned -- on seven hits in seven innings. He didn't allow a walk and struck out six.
"He threw the ball very well," Williams said. "He matched Kilome inning for inning there for a while."
Lakewood scored once in the third inning and three more times in the seventh. Rome third baseman Austin Riley misplayed Jose Pujols' two-out grounder in the third and Damek Tomscha drove a double to right-center field. The Braves had a chance to get Pujols at the plate, but catcher Jonathan Morales couldn't hang onto the relay as the runner slid into him.
The BlueClaws also capitalized on errors by second baseman Josephina and shortstop Alejandro Salazar for a three-run seventh. Mark Laird picked up the only RBI with a single.
Wilson Garcia lofted a homer to right off reliever Matt Custred in the eighth.
Touki Toussaint, the Braves' No. 10 prospect, will start for Rome in Game 2 on Tuesday night, with fellow right-hander Seranthony Dominguez pitching for Lakewood.
Guy Curtright is a contributor to MiLB.com.