SAN FRANCISCO -- The night before in Denver, his feet had barely touched the ground. Dustin Pedroia had never had a better game in his life.
Now, one night later, the Red Sox second baseman was on crutches, his sore left foot in a walking boot, gingerly maneuvering his way down a long corridor that led to the team bus outside of AT&T Park. Pedroia has had few nights filled with more dread and uncertainty.
"C'mon, man," he said to the bystander who jumped in front of him to snap a picture on his cellphone camera. ("For my brother in the bathroom," the man stammered.)
It'll be at least Saturday morning, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, before anyone knows the extent of the damage Pedroia inflicted upon himself when he swung at a pitch from Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, catching the ball squarely with the barrel of his bat, but yanking it violently inside, the ball crunching into the unprotected instep of his left foot.
Pedroia finished the at-bat, drawing a walk to lead off the third inning, but had to hobble to first base. Francona and trainer Mike Reinold had rushed to Pedroia's side in the batter's box when he first was hurt, only to have Pedroia tell them he wanted to at least finish the at-bat. This time, when they came out, they removed him from the game.
"He got the X-rays," Francona said. "They did not see a break or anything, we're obviously going to get him examined a lot more tomorrow.
"He's having a tough time putting any weight on it. The kid is sore as hell. He got whacked. He's really sore. The only thing to do in the middle of a game is to send him for X-rays, but we've got to do more. That's all we really know."
Until additional tests are taken, including an MRI exam, Francona would not rule out the possibility that the foot is broken.
Pedroia's plan until the doctors run further tests?
"Just ice, elevate, and pray, I don't know," he said.
Losing Pedroia would be a profound loss for the Sox, who have never known the experience of playing without their inspirational leader for any length of time. Pedroia played in 154 games last season, 157 in 2008, and had started 73 of the team's first 75 games this season. Even in 2007, his rookie season, when he had a fractured hamate bone in his left wrist, he played 139 games and the entire postseason without publicly revealing the injury and waited until after the World Series to have surgery.
The second baseman, who hit three home runs while going 5-for-5 Thursday night, only the third player in Red Sox history to have five hits and three home runs in the same game, has been one of the team's hottest hitters. He came into Friday night's game batting .500 (26-for-52) in his previous 13 games, raising his overall average from .248 to .293. He struck out in his first at-bat Friday night, which left him at .292.
Francona would not confirm that the Sox already have summoned another infielder for Saturday's game against the Giants, but acknowledged that it had been discussed.
Pedroia was on crutches, standing in front of his locker, after reporters finished with Francona.
"Very disappointed," he said. "I've never hit a ball there before, but I'll be all right."
Asked if he feared the injury was serious, Pedroia said he didn't know.
"We'll get all the tests done and have the doctors check it out, I'll find out everything tomorrow."
Asked if he thought the foot was broken, he said he didn't know. "I told Tito, 'Just finish the at-bat, and go on from there.' "
Pedroia said he broke his leg as a child. "I broke my face a couple of times, almost in the second inning today" -- referring to an awkward collision with shortstop Marco Scutaro that led to an infield hit -- "but other than that, nothing much."
Pedroia said his foot was swollen, which was not surprising.
"I hit it on the barrel. I wish I got jammed or something, but I squared it up. I'll be all right."
Two reporters from Japan who cover the Red Sox held the clubhouse doors open for Pedroia as he departed, the basement corridor still occupied by a handful of fans. He planned to return to the team hotel, where his family was waiting.
"How are you doing, Dustin, are you OK?" one called.
"Feel better, Dustin," one child said.
"Are you all right?" one man asked.
"Yeah, I'm all right," Pedroia said.
"We love you, man," the man said. "Get better soon."
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.