The Yankees trailed the Detroit Tigers 8-5 in the bottom of the eighth inning. They loaded the bases with two outs for Adeiny Hechavarria.
And bench coach Josh Bard, taking over managerial duties with Aaron Boone serving a one-game suspension, turned to first baseman Greg Bird over outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to pinch hit.
Bird, who was hitting .108 over his last 21 games, hit a Victor Alcantara sinker to the warning track for an inning-ending flyout while Stanton remained in the dugout as the Yankees eventually lost 11-7.
Bard defended his decision to use Bird over Stanton, who leads the team with 33 home runs and 84 RBIs, after the game, saying while the team wanted to give Stanton a true day off, he would have been available if the matchup was favorable and if it could have given the Yankees an opportunity to win the game.
"He was available but we were going to make sure that it was to either win the game, and we thought the matchup was good for Birdy right there," Bard told reporters after the game, according to YES Network. "If we would've got to [Kyle Higashioka] in the ninth, G probably would've hit right there.
"We were trying to give G a day, and if we would've had a matchup that we really, really liked for G, he probably would've hit there. But we liked the matchup there and Birdy hit the ball hard."
With the loss, the Yankees missed an opportunity to gain ground on the AL East-leading Red Sox, but instead remained 7 1/2 games back of the division lead heading into a three-game series with the Oakland A's, who currently hold the second spot in the AL wild card.
Stanton hasn't missed a game this season since May 28, though in the 35 games since Aaron Judge was placed on the disabled list, he has played right field 12 times and been the designated hitter 23 times.
Bird, meanwhile has struggled immensely this season, as his batting average has dropped 37 points and his OPS 101 points since Aug. 3.
"He was prepared for the situation that we wanted him in," Bard said. "Good at-bat right there, and just kind of been the last couple weeks for him right there. The balls that he has hit hard have been caught, but I'm encouraged by the at-bat quality."