"It was great. We fought hard enough to win this game," Rivera said. "Thank God we were able to win."
Rivera also coughed up a lead on Wednesday against the White Sox in Chicago, a game the Yankees lost. This was the ninth time he has blown saves in back-to-back opportunities; the last came on April 19 and 24, 2011.
"I didn't execute what I needed to do, bottom line," he said. "You can't make excuses for that."
He said that Cabrera's homer came on a two-seam fastball that he did not get inside enough. By blasting a shot onto the center-field netting covering Monument Park, Cabrera completed an epic at-bat that included a pair of painful foul balls off his leg and knee.
"He probably was trying to get it in more than he got it in," manager Joe Girardi said of the fateful pitch. "He was probably trying to elevate it more than he did. Cabrera put a tough at-bat on him, fouled a bunch of pitches off -- fouled it off his knee, fouled it off his foot. He did a good job of getting him to two strikes, and couldn't put him away."
Replays showed that Rivera mouthed "wow" as Cabrera trotted slowly around the bases, and Rivera confirmed that reaction.
"He was kind of like limping, you know? And to hit the ball out like that? It's amazing," Rivera said.
Cabrera entered the evening 0-for-5 lifetime against Rivera before cracking his blast off the all-time saves leader.
"He doesn't surprise us anymore," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We've seen him so often that nothing he does is a surprise. He's awful special."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.