Astros axe Jimy Williams

The underachieving Houston Astros have fired manager Jimy Williams and named Phil Garner as his replacement.

The team announced the switch at a Wednesday afternoon press conference at Houston's Minute Maid Park.

"I'm excited. I'm a Houston boy and I'm looking forward to it," said Garner.

"We got some boys on the team that I think can do something really special. This is an opportunity that I've been waiting for."

Williams, 60, was in his third season with the Astros. He guided Houston to two second-place finishes in the National League Central Division.

The Astros entered this season as World Series contenders but have stumbled to a 44-44 record at the all-star break. They currently sit fifth in the N.L. Central, 10 1/2 games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals.

Houston fans had high expectations for the Astros this season. The club lured hurlers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte to Houston during the off-season to join a pitching staff which already boasted aces Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller.

Both Pettitte and Miller have spent stretches on the disabled list.

The team's handful of offensive stars – Lance Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Kent and the recently-acquired Carlos Beltran – have also been unable to lift the Astros out of its first-half funk.

Houston fans booed Williams during the pre-game introductions at Tuesday's all-star game. The former Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox manager tipped his cap but appeared embarrassed by the crowd's response.

Garner, Williams' replacement, played for the Astros from 1981-87. He also coached the club from 1989-91.

Garner, 55, has managed two other big-league clubs – the Milwaukee Brewers (1992-99) and the Detroit Tigers (2000-2002), compiling a 708-802 career record.

He led the Tigers to two straight sub-.500 seasons during his most recent managing stint. Garner was fired after losing the first six games of the 2002 campaign.

with files from Sports Network