HOUSTON -- Brad Halsey grew up in Houston and rooted hard for the Astros, learning about baseball through his hometown team.
The Astros, however, knew virtually nothing about Halsey and it showed.
"To have Halsey come out here in his hometown against one of the best pitchers of all-time has to be special for him," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, who was a catcher for Clemens in Boston 12 years ago. "He is especially tough when you haven't seen him before."
Halsey (3-2) had the best start of his young career, yielding just one run in seven innings.
"It's a great feeling to pitch here and get the win," he said. "I was an Astros fan growing up. They were my team. Obviously I'm a D-backs fan first now."
Three Arizona relievers worked in and out of trouble to protect a 3-1 lead in the eighth, then Gonzalez gave the Diamondbacks some cushion in the ninth with his sixth homer.
The 24-year-old Halsey came up with a gem against the 42-year-old Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young award winner who, like Halsey, is a native of Houston, a former University of Texas star and former New York Yankee.
The two "Texas Exes" met once before at an alumni game in Austin a couple years ago. Clemens remembered virtually nothing of the meeting, and Halsey -- true to his low-key personality -- had little to say about it and, apparently, during it.
"We really didn't speak as I recall," Halsey said. "We didn't have much conversation."
But Halsey's performance against one of his childhood idols and Houston baseball icon made enough of a statement.
Halsey retired the first 10 batters before Jose Vizcaino doubled to left in the fourth inning. Craig Biggio followed with a single, but Lance Berkman grounded into a double play to end the threat.
"He was throwing pretty good," Biggio said. "His pitches were all good, and this is the first time we've seen him."
Halsey found himself in a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, but the Astros scored only on Jason Lane's RBI grounder to shortstop. The left-hander allowed six hits with no strikeouts or walks, bouncing back nicely after losing his last two starts.
"For a young kid who looks like he's 15 and doesn't show any outward emotion, that was an impressive game," Melvin said. "He shows no emotion, he just comes after you."
Meanwhile, Clemens (3-2) was undone by Houston's punchless offense and season-high five errors. He entered Thursday's game with a major league-leading ERA of 1.11.
Diamondbacks lefty Shawn Estes -- scheduled to pitch Saturday -- tried motivating his teammates for the big matchup against the Rocket.
In the visitor's dugout, Estes posted a mock bio of himself on a wall with one bit of truth: he's 1-for-1 with a solo homer and sacrifice bunt in two career at-bats against Clemens. Under the stat line, Estes scribbled: "It's not that hard! Let's go!"
The Diamondbacks certainly made it look that way, at least in the first inning.
Craig Counsell led off with a single and went to third on Clemens' throwing error to first. Alex Cintron drove in Counsell on a grounder to shortstop, Gonzalez singled and Troy Glaus followed with a run-scoring double. Glaus then scored on a fielding error by Lamb, giving Arizona a 3-0 lead.
"I tried to battle, but you just can't give them early runs like that and that's what I did," Clemens said. "I didn't feel like I had a lot tonight."
Clemens recovered, retiring the next nine batters and 17 of his last 21 without allowing a hit.
The Rocket gave up two earned runs on three hits with a season-low three strikeouts and two walks. It was his first outing this season that lasted fewer than seven innings.
The Astros have scored just 16 runs in his nine outings this season.
- Clemens and Halsey both led Texas to NCAA championships. Clemens pitched the Longhorns to the title in 1983; Halsey was a member of UT's 2002 championship team.
- Glaus' double gives him 27 extra base hits this year, extending his NL lead.
- Astros INF Eric Bruntlett dropped to 0-for-14 at the plate, the most at-bats without a hit in the majors this season.
- Every Astros infielder, except 3B Morgan Ensberg, committed an error.
- Houston fell to 3-11 against left-handed starters.