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Astros fire ex-Tiger manager Garner

Phil-Garner

Phil Garner: Astros fell into pattern of so-so ball this year.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Enlarge

HOUSTON - Manager Phil Garner was fired yesterday by the Houston Astros, less than two years after leading the team to its first World Series appearance.

The Astros general manager, Tim Purpura, also was sacked.

Bench coach Cecil Cooper was appointed interim manager, and team president Tal Smith will serve as interim general manager.

"I felt this was the time for a change," owner Drayton McLane said. "I just think we needed a fresh start."

Houston slumped to 58-73 this year, nine games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs.

"We had really fallen into a pattern of so-so ball," Garner said during a telephone interview with the Associated Press. "We were never able to put together the run, like we made in the previous two seasons."

Garner took over the Astros in the middle of the 2004 season after Jimy Williams was fired. The Astros went 48-26 in the second half and won 36 of their last 46 games to become the NL wild card, then defeated Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs before losing to St. Louis in Game 7 of the NL championship series.

Houston won its second straight wild-card berth in 2005 and defeated the Braves and Cardinals in the playoffs before getting swept by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.

Garner managed Milwaukee from 1992-99 and Detroit from 2000-02. He has a 985-1,054 career record as a major league manager, including 277-252 with the Astros.

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