Encarnacion, recalled Aug. 17 from Triple-A Toledo, hit a three-run homer and a double, helping the Tigers beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 8-2 on Saturday night in the second game of a doubleheader.
In the first game, Mike Kelly hit two homers and Bobby Smith went 4-for-5 with four RBIs as the Devil Rays won 10-6.
Encarnacion had an 11-game hitting streak stopped in the opener. He quickly made up for that in the second game, going 2-for-4.
Encarnacion doubled and scored in the fourth before hitting his second homer for a 7-2 lead in the fifth. In 13 games, he's batting .367 (18-for-49).
"He's just been playing great," Tigers manager Buddy Bell said. "There's a world of difference between him now and last year. He's more confident and I think he feels he belongs."
Two other rookies made significant contributions as the Tigers won for just the sixth time in 26 games.
Frank Catalanotto had a homer and two RBIs and right-hander Seth Greisinger allowed just four hits in 8 1-3 innings for his third straight win. Tony Clark homered in both games for Detroit.
Greisinger (4-7) was two outs away from his first compete game when an error, a single and a walk loaded the bases in the ninth. Todd Jones came on to get the last two outs in a non-save situation.
"I just went after the hitters and tried to get a first-pitch strike with my fastball and keep the game moving," Greisinger said. "I only had two strikeouts, but I had a lot of ground ball outs. The way we were hitting, I just wanted to get the guys back in the dugout as quick as I could."
Bryan Rekar (1-7) lost his fifth straight decision, allowing eight runs on 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings. He hasn't won since July 27.
"He's OK," Tampa Bay manager Larry Rothschild said. "He just had a bad night."
Clark hit his 29th homer in the third, then the Tigers took a 4-2 lead in the fourth on Joe Siddall's RBI double and Catalanotto's sacrifice fly. Encarnacion's homer broke the game open.
"I think if that game stays 4-2 it's a different game," Rothschild said. "The three-run homer made all the difference."
Catalanotto's fifth homer made it 8-2 in the sixth.
In the first game, Kelly hit a three-run homer to break a 2-2 tie and Smith added a two-run triple in a six-run sixth. The big inning made it easy for knuckleballer Dennis Springer to win for the first time since May 30.
Springer (3-11) gave up four runs on three hits all homers in six innings.
"It makes it easy to pitch when you've got some runs to play with," Springer said. "I felt great out there. For the most part I was throwing knuckleballs for striks. I just got to go out there and play around, and that was fun."
Gonzalez, Bobby Higginson and Clark homered for the Tigers.
Kelly, who has a career-high nine homers, had his third multihomer game of the season. He hit a solo shot in the fourth before the three-shot in the sixth.
"I was just up there swinging hard and trying to be aggressive," Kelly said. "I never try to hit home runs. They just happen."
Smith was a homer shy of becoming the first Devil Ray to hit for the cycle. He had a single, two doubles and a triple. His four hits and four RBIs were both career highs.
Justin Thompson (10-12) lost his third straight start and was rocked for seven runs on 13 hits in 5 2-3 innings. Thompson had won his previous three decisions at home after losing his first six.
"It seems like my last two outings I've been struggling when I get to the middle innings," Thompson said. "I'm just out of juice when I get to that point."
Detroit cut it to 8-4 on Clark's two-run homer in the sixth before Smith hit a two-run double in the eighth. The Tigers added two runs in the ninth.
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the first when Wade Boggs had an infield single for his 2,900th career hit and eventually scored on Bubba Trammell's groundout.
Gonzalez's 18th home run gave the Tigers a 1-1 tie in the second, and Kelly's solo homer in the fourth was answered by Higginson's 22nd home run in the home half.
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