Cabrera spoiled Angels manager Mike Scioscia's strategy, hitting a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning that led the Yankees over Los Angeles 7-4 on Thursday night for their third straight win.
Coming off a tough year that saw him sent to the minors last August, Cabrera sat behind speedy Brett Gardner when the season opened. But when Gardner slumped, Cabrera stepped in.
"I watched his effort in spring training, and I watched his work ethic right after I told him he wasn't going to be the center fielder. And he told me, `I'll be ready to play any time,'" Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Cabrera hit a game-ending home run in the 14th inning against Oakland to finish the Yankees' first homestand of the year. This go-ahead hit raised his average to .327.
"He didn't start the season as an everyday player, but he knew his role," teammate Johnny Damon said. "He's playing with a confidence, he's playing with a purpose."
Cabrera left the ballpark without comment.
With fog and drizzle blowing into the ballpark, further emptying the expensive seats lining the field, the Yankees stopped the Angels' three-game win streak.
After an intentional walk to Nick Swisher loaded the bases with one out, Cabrera hit an RBI single on the first pitch from Justin Speier (0-1) for a 5-4 lead. Ramiro Pena followed with a two-run double for his first RBIs in the majors.
"There were a lot of things we considered," Scioscia said. "I thought there was a chance for a groundball and a double play. I felt better about going after Cabrera and then the rookie -- Pena -- after him. Justin just missed with his spots; he was yanking the ball."
Said Speier: "I've got a short-term memory. I'll be thinking about something else entirely in about 10 minutes."
Pena delivered while getting a start at third base, a spot soon to be occupied by Alex Rodriguez.
"Maybe I create an opportunity," Pena said.
Damon and Mike Napoli became the latest hitters to launch shots over the inviting right-field wall at Yankee Stadium. The 28 home runs overall -- 19 to right -- are the most in the first seven games of a new park, one more than at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati in 2003, the Elias Sports Bureau said.
The loss left the Angels at 9-12 in April, ending their run of 15 straight months at .500 or better. That was longest active streak in the majors.
Mark Teixeira, who signed as a free agent with the Yankees despite the Angels' efforts to keep him, got booed after grounding into a double play in the seventh and striking out with the bases loaded to end the eighth.
"I'm just not getting it done right now," he said.
Bobby Abreu, who wanted to re-sign with the Yankees but didn't get an offer, had a single, a stolen base and an error for the Angels.
This was the first home game for the Yankees since they cut some ticket prices and gave away free seats to fans who bought high-priced season plans. Still, the field-level sections right behind home plate were only half-full on a chilly evening.
The Angels held an early workout in the Bronx, taking batting practice and trying to get a feel for the new park. Chone Figgins got them off to a fast start, leading off the game with a triple and scoring on a groundout by Maicer Izturis.
New York's Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 17 games. ... Derek Jeter's 1,014th career RBI moved him past Bob Meusel for 10th place on the Yankees' list. ... The Angels stole three bases and were caught twice.