"They should make a movie from that at-bat," Torii Hunter said.
The competitors in them hated the eventual ending to the game. The fans and teammates in them loved the plot twist of the battle.
"Tonight was special," Rick Porcello said. "I mean, we ended up losing the game, but that was pretty incredible."
In addition, the loss didn't affect the Tigers' seven-game lead in the American League Central, thanks to the Indians' loss to the Angels at Progressive Field. It was the Tigers' first loss in August, but it might be remembered as much as the wins.
Even the defeat showed the mentality Cabrera has been talking about as the reason behind the Tigers' run.
"It feels different," Cabrera said. "I see guys grinding every inning, every at-bat, and nobody ever gives up. We always stay positive. I think that's a very good thing we have right now. We fight to the last out."
Thanks to Cabrera, they fought a little longer on Friday.
Three times this week, the Tigers have hit a game-tying or go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later. Cabrera has two of them. He struck out three times against Indians rookie starter Danny Alvarez before hitting a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning on Wednesday in Cleveland.
This was different. This was Rivera, against whom Cabrera was 0-for-5 with a strikeout when he stepped to the plate with two outs and Austin Jackson on second base. After Cabrera fouled off the first two pitches, one of them just out of reach of first baseman Lyle Overbay near the Yankees' dugout, he was fighting to stay alive.
"You want to grind out the at-bat and try to make something happen," Cabrera said. "You want to keep fighting, keep fighting and wait for a mistake."
The first two-strike foul ball left Cabrera in agony, clutching his left knee and leaning on his bat as the training staff attended to him. A few fans, hoping to see Rivera's 644th career save, began to boo, suggesting Cabrera was simply delaying the game.
The second foul left Cabrera stretching his leg in the batter's box as Rivera received a new ball.
"Keep stretching, Cabrera," a Yankees fan yelled from behind home plate.
Said Hunter: "You've got the best closer in the game ever, and probably the best hitter of our time at the plate. Mariano threw the two-seamers in, he fouls them off, and it looked like he was defeated. It looked like a movie. He's like, 'Oh my God, I can't walk.'"
One swing and more than 410 feet later, Cabrera went from stretching to trotting around the bases.
"It was down, between the inside and the middle," Cabrera said. "I was able to extend my arms and hit it good."
Rivera's farewell season has left baseball marveling at his accomplishments. But as he became the 249th Major League pitcher to give up a home run to Cabrera, it was his turn to marvel.
"Wow," Rivera mouthed as Cabrera's drive hit the netting beyond the center-field fence.
He had more words later, but the sense was the same.
"Didn't get in enough," Rivera said. "He was looking for it, I would say, but the pitch wasn't that in either.
"Again, you're talking about professional players, professional hitters. You're talking about one of the great hitters."
"We knew he was probably in pain," Hunter said, "but this dude is unbelievable. The more and more I see him play ... I've been with him for five, six months now, and I'm still in awe."
Those who have seen him their whole careers feel the same way.
"He pounded two balls off his left leg and he could barely walk," Porcello said, "and he goes dead central here, which is not a small ballpark out to center field. He's incredible."
Even Al Alburquerque, who was an out away from escaping a 10th-inning jam when Gardner got just enough of a fastball to send a ground ball just out of shortstop Hernan Perez's reach and into left field, was shaking his head about the home run afterward.
"Oh, it's unbelievable," Alburquerque said.
The Tigers had a new game, but they didn't have a refreshed bullpen. Detroit used four relievers after Porcello exited to keep within range for Cabrera's drive. Once Jose Veras pitched a scoreless ninth to take the game into extra innings, Alburquerque was the only option before closer Joaquin Benoit.
Alburquerque gave up a leadoff walk to Jayson Nix and a single to Curtis Granderson. He struck out Overbay on a pitch in the dirt, but the skip past catcher Brayan Pena moved the runners up.
Alburquerque intentionally walked Eduardo Nunez, loading the bases, then got Chris Stewart to look at a fastball on the corner for a called third strike to remove the threat of a sacrifice fly.
He kept the same approach to Gardner.
"He was ready for my slider, my best pitch," Alburquerque. "It was a good pitch. Not lucky."