CLEVELAND — Carlos Santana’s three-run homer pushed the Cleveland Indians to a 5-2 win over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night and nearer to their first AL Central championship since 2007.

Santana’s shot in the sixth inning off Dillon Gee (7-9) snapped a 2-2 tie as the Indians improved to 9-1 against the Royals this season.

Kansas City’s chances of making the postseason took another blow. The defending World Series champions began the night behind six teams in the wild-card chase.

Reliever Dan Otero (5-1) pitched two scoreless innings, Bryan Shaw worked one and Cody Allen pitched a perfect ninth for his 29th save.

Jason Kipnis homered for the Indians, who can wrap up a postseason berth this weekend against the Chicago White Sox.

Alcides Escobar hit a two-run homer for the Royals.

Santana, who hit an RBI double in the first, has been on a tear the past two days.

Gee hit Kipnis to start the sixth and Francisco Lindor walked. One out later, Santana drove his 34th homer into the right-field seats. After he crossed home plate, Santana pointed at NBA free agent swingman J.R. Smith, who helped the Cavaliers win the NBA title this year and end Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought.

TIGERS SWEEP TWINS: Justin Verlander (15-8) tied a season-high with 11 strikeouts and Detroit moved into the second AL wild-card spot by beating Minnesota 4-2 in the second game of a doubleheader sweep.

Victor Martinez had a pinch-hit, three-run homer during a six-run ninth inning as Detroit won the opener 9-2.

Erick Aybar drove in two runs for Detroit, which moved a half-game ahead of Baltimore for the second wild card and trails Toronto by one game.

ANGELS 2, ASTROS 0: Albert Pujols hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Ricky Nolasco pitched seven solid innings as Los Angeles hindered the Astros’ wild-card hopes with a win at Houston.

Pujols homered into the Crawford Boxes in left field, helping Los Angeles move to 2-11 against the Astros this season.

Nolasco (7-14) gave up five hits – all singles – and struck out five.

RAYS 2, YANKEES 0: Blake Snell and Tampa Bay’s bullpen combined to strand 11 New York runners in a win at home that prevented a much-needed three-game sweep by the Yankees.

New York went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, including 0 for 7 against Snell.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

METS 9, PHILLIES 8: Asdrubal Cabrera hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning as New York rallied from being two runs down to win in dramatic fashion at home.

REWERS 2, PIRATES 1: Chris Carter hit his 37th home run, matching his career high and Scooter Gennett sliced an opposite-field, two-run homer to help Milwaukee avoid a sweep at home.

BRAVES 6, MARLINS 3: Matt Kemp hit two home runs to power Atlanta to a win at Miami. The Braves have now won six straight – the third such streak this season.

Atlanta’s Josh Collmenter (3-0) pitched seven innings and allowed two runs.